Shinohara knows how to show a canvas who’s the boss. His wife Noriko knows how to do the same with
Shinohara. However, it was not always
thus. Their relationship has evolved
over the years. Zachary Heinzerling
documents the artists as they prepare for their first joint show in Cutie and the Boxer (trailer here), which opens this
Friday in New York.
Shinohara’s unique brand of abstract expressionism involves paint soaked boxing
gloves. One of the more cinematic
artists to watch at work, Shinohara created several of his boxing paintings
live in Park City when Cutie screened
at Sundance. He also has a considerable
body of sculpture work, but it is the painting for which he is best known. Alas, “known” is a relative term. Despite a burst of media attention when he
arrived in 1969, lasting success has eluded the boxer.
Shinohara in New York as a naïve art student, Noriko put her career on hold to
raise their son and to serve as her husband’s assistant. However, she is poised to eclipse his limited
renown with her autobiographical comic art, depicting the tempestuous
relationship of the often naked “Cutie” and her alcoholic husband
“Bullie.” “Ushi” is the Japanese word
for “bull,” but the name perhaps holds a double meaning here.
with the Shinoharas sounds much quieter now that he has sworn off
drinking. Unfortunately, their adult son
seems to have picked up his father’s bad habits—a not uncommon phenomenon for
children of alcoholics. Their interfamily
dynamics are definitely complicated, but Heinzerling gives viewers enough
contextualization to pick up on most of it.
Shinohara’s working process is compulsively watchable. Noriko Shinohara’s work is interesting to
read and absorb. That gives Heinzerling
quite a bit material to shape into a film, particularly by the standards of
most quietly contemplative art docs.
Just Ushio Shinohara’s status as an eighty year old struggling artist
lends the film ample dramatic tension.
as his own cinematographer, Heinzerling gives C & B the straight forward observational doc treatment. However, the music of
experimental/jazz/classical composer and Bach interpreter Yasuaki Shimizu adds
a layer of aesthetic richness to the film, while sensitively accompanying the
on-screen action. Whether or not the
film will make Ushio Shinohara’s art more collectible, it should move quite a
few Shimizu CDs (or downloads).
& B examines the downside
of hipsterdom, but it has a strong element of hope that will surely resonate
with audiences. The Shinoharas keep
doggedly plugging away, remaining faithful to their artistic visions and each
other. Hopefully, Heinzerling’s film
will help spur wider recognition for them.
Recommended for patrons of art documentaries and contemporary Japanese
art, Cutie and the Boxer opens this
Friday (8/16) at the Landmark Sunshine.
Labels: Documentary, Noriko Shinohara, Ushio Shinohara