Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
Art Bastard: Robert Cenedella Keeps Score
Cenedella’s paintings are somewhat reminiscent of Red Grooms’ grandly ruckus
urban visions, but they are angrier and less playful. Whether that means they
are better or worse is wholly subjective and thoroughly debatable, but you can
sign us up for Team Red right now. Considering how many documentaries are produced
arguing given artists are under-heralded geniuses, you start to wonder if maybe
some of them are actually critically pegged about right. Regardless, Victor
Kanefsky makes his case for Cenedella in Art
which opens today in New York.
lived through the 1960s and he is not about to let you forget it. His father’s
blacklisting in the 1950s further compounded his radicalization. However, the
man he called father wasn’t really his biological father. That would be Colgate
Professor and friend of the family Russell Speiers. Yet, Cenedella’s spiritual father
was clearly expatriate Art Students League teacher George Grosz.
the coolest part about Art Bastard is
watching Cenedella teach at the League, having assumed the George Grosz Chair.
It is a unique New York institution (Grooms himself studied there, as did Ai
Weiwei). Unfortunately, Cenedella has a habit of undermining the good will
Kanefsky tries to build up on his behalf.
a strangely telling scene, Cenedella fondly remembers the Nixon dart boards he
mass-produced during one of his artistic hiatuses (rather shrewdly, Rose Mary
Woods duly supplied a better picture of Nixon’s winning smile in response to
Cendella’s request). This is the same Cenedella who boasts about freeloading at
least fifty meals at Le Cirque while working on an anniversary mural for the restaurant.
He also takes great delight in explaining how he removed a New York Magazine writer from the painting, when the promised
article did not include a picture of the mural. That is a pretty tit-for-tat thing
to do, especially when such layout decisions are almost always made by editors
(as Cenedella, the not so self-aware former advertising agency man, should
surely understand). Yet, he takes great pleasure is revisiting the man’s embarrassment
in front of his family at the mural’s unveiling.
At this point it is obvious Cenedella is the
sort of person who keep track of perceived slights and grudges. It makes you
wonder if his full name is Robert Milhous Cenedella. Regardless, the film will
effectively end for many viewers at this point. Frankly, it should have ended
sooner. Still, whether it was intentional or not, Kanefsky deserves credit for
revealing a reasonably full portrait of Cenedella. Nevertheless, the eighty-two
minutes spent with the score-keeping artist really start to drag. Not
recommended, Art Bastard opens today
(6/3) in New York, at the Angelika Film Center.
Labels: Documentary, Robert Cenedella