August 20, 2008
I’ve been unable to post for the last few days due a breakdown in our internet thanks to the yellow bellied scoundrels at Time Warner. That is until I realized that my work laptop detects connections from lands far, far away. So here I am stealing internet, transmitting via guerrilla blogfare.
I’m not quite sure where exactly I first stumbled upon Beautiful Losers, but as soon as I chanced on it, I was intrigued. The film—directed by Aaron Rose, founder of NYC’s now defunct Alleged Gallery—documents the rise of a D.I.Y. art movement in the early ’90s that revolved around the urban aesthetic of street art, graffiti, skateboarding and underground music. Anyone that reads this blog regularly (all four of you) know that this is right up my alley. And when I learned that the film focuses on artists that I respect and admire: Harmony Korine, Shepard Fairey, Barry McGee and others, I knew I had to see it. Lucky for me, the film began its general theatrical release right here at the IFC Center at W4 St.
I must say that leaving the theater I was not at all disappointed. First, it was interesting to hear first-person accounts from each artist explaining their initial engagement in the D.I.Y. scene. Most began with an early self-derived perception of outsider status, or being different from the other kids in the cafeteria. Of course these claims are validated through quirky, often hilarious anecdotes from each artist. In one particularly memorable scene, Harmony Korine tells a little girl that a friend of his was once decapitated in the very park in which she was playing, to which she responds, “Cool!” It’s actually hard to tell if he’s serious.
Beautiful Losers was also worthwhile as it exposed me to several artists with whom I wasn’t very familiar. I learned about the work of Mike Mills who has designed dope album covers for Sonic Youth, Beck and the Beastie Boys, Margaret Kilgallen, whose San Francisco-based folk art I recognized and Chris Johanson, who sports a massive beard and is just plain nuts.
I also appreciated the fact that the film didn’t raise any negative sentiment for artists applying their work for commercial purposes. So often today artists are accused of selling out and alienating their core audience, the audience that was there during the come up. If an artist has the opportunity to project his or her vision on a larger scale without compromising their creative integrity, he or she should be encouraged, not chastised. Specifically, the film touched on graphic designer Geoff McFetridge who has spearheaded cool ass campaigns for Pepsi and done collaborations with sneaker companies.
There were only a couple aspects that detracted from the film for me: In my opinion, the cutaway shots of the artwork were often too quick and sporadic. I understand that a film has to move, but there were times that I wanted a few more seconds to take it all in. I also thought the unfortunate death of Margaret Kilgallen was touched upon very abruptly and disrupted the flow of the film somewhat towards the end.
All in all however, Beautiful Losers is the type of film that lights a creative fire under your ass and makes you wonder why you ever stopped taking art lessons in seventh grade. It reminds you why you enjoyed drawing and making things…because it was stimulating and fucking fun. Excuse me while I go tag my bedroom wall.