Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Mr. Bitchin': A Character, An Artist, A Film

Robert Williams' images jump at you.   He relies a lot on pop culture references.  In  the movie Robert Williams:  Mr. Bitchin', the images literally jump at you from the screen.   The filmmakers of this documentary isolated certain images from his paintings and bring them to the front of the screen, which made you pay attention to his details.  There are details everywhere in a Williams' work.  In dissecting a few of his paintings in the film, he details where his inspiration comes from, why he likes certain colors and how he would love to paint tiny details all the time if it wasn't so taxing.  The movie had it's New York premier last night at the MOMA.

He wanted to depict delusion, he thought of King Farouk.  He read extensively about him and his rule over Egypt (which of course is very timely) and portrayed him in several vignettes on a large canvas.  Gluttony, thievery and conspicuous consumption are played out in his typical bright colors.  As in most of his paintings, cars figure.  In this case it's a shiny red Cadillac convertible.

A Life Of Delusion by Robert Williams
Early in his career, Robert was the art director for Ed "Big Daddy" Roth's studio in Los Angeles.  Big Daddy customized Hot Rods, which were themselves customized cars.  The movie gives a nice history of the Hot Rod's beginnings.   Ed Roth saw Robert's car, which he described as one big dent and his long hair and thought there was no way this guy could paint this beautifully.  Robert proved him wrong and secured a job at the studio.  Robert is seen driving his cars (and a unicycle and sting ray bike) in Mr. Bitchin'.

Robert was part of Zap Comix and eventually started his own art magazine JUXTAPOZ, which is a forum for both established and up-and-coming artists.  Juxtapoz was different than other art magazine which seemed to focus on text and not the art.

He creates characters and comes across as a character himself in this film.  Many artists will not discuss their art and that's why Mr. Bitchin' is a breath of fresh air.  Williams freely lets you into his process, which for me made his work that much more alive.  It's a fun romp into an artists head. 

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