Every holiday season we take advantage of Walt’s days off by staying up late and watching movies. My favorite movies are art documentaries. This Thanksgiving weekend, we watched three.
We started with Cutie and the Boxer.
I loved this film. Cutie is Noriko Shinohara and the Boxer is Ushio Shinohara. The film documents their 40 year marriage. Ushio is a Japanese Neo-Dadaist known for his boxing paintings and his larger than life cardboard motorcycles.
Through it all Noriko has been his wife, mother of their child, assistant, housekeeper, and chef.
After many many years of fighting for her artistic space in their lives, Noriko finally figures out how to talk above Ushio’s voice. She begins to tell the story of Cutie and the Boxer also known as the Bully.
I am still thinking about this. About how angry Noriko must have been at certain times in their lives together and how she finally did it–claimed her space. And poor Ushio–he is still trying to make sense of it.
This was also an exceptionally good movie on so many levels. Before I watched the movie, I knew that Ray and Charles were married, and that they had a long and successful career making chairs and cultivating what we now think of as the mid-century modern aesthetic.
I had no idea that there was so much more to their work. The most surprising thing for me to discover were their movies. They created the Power of Ten. Now that is just crazy! And who knew that they were willingly Cold War propagandists? I didn’t.
Unlike Noriko and Ushio, Ray and Charles relationship was grounded in Charles need for Ray’s sense of color and composition. Here is a lovely example of that. What makes this photo work?
I think we would all say that it is the placement of that bird. That bird is Ray’s touch. But as Charles moved more and more into film and big ideas his need for Ray’s expertise diminished. While they stayed together they grew apart.
Paul’s real claim to fame is founding and running a cable access show called Gallery Beat. In this kind of wacky art news show, Paul and friends crash gallery and museum openings, participate in naked installations, and interview most of the major players in the New York art scene from 1993-2000.
And that is, for me, what is troubling about the movie. Here is my conclusion. Paul makes his art by being who he is. Cindy makes her art by being who she is not. And that did not make for a very long lasting union.
Paul struggles to find his identity in a world where Cindy so clearly has hers. Their relationship falls apart, and all Paul has in the end is this movie. Which in its own way is an interesting look at the New York art scene, relationships, and power.
What a great weekend of movies. Have you watched any good art documentaries lately? I’d love to hear about them.