Thursday, October 9, 2008
LONDON, England -- Damien Hirst's formaldehyde shark and gilded calf are sold for millions while banks crumble, but art has always delighted in courting paradox and eluding definition.
The same can be said for the documentary "Beautiful Losers." Opening with an artist describing a painting as "so bad that I love it," the story, just as the art it documents, resists conventional categorization.
The story follows a tightly-knit group of like-minded thinkers in the early 1990s who gravitated towards a small NYC storefront gallery called Alleged and combined to create easily accessible art that would reflect their lives.
Following in the traditions of Warhol and Basquiat, this creative think-tank drew on their diverse roots in the DIY subcultures of skateboarding, surf, punk, hip-hop and graffiti to assert their conviction that art could be brought down to street level and out of the sometimes ivory-towered, intellectual elite of international galleries.
Directed by founder of the movement and Alleged gallery owner Aaron Rose, the documentary traces the rags to riches story of the group who, despite little formal artistic training, now tour the world with their Beautiful Losers exhibition, featuring anything from installation art to graffiti.
With a soundtrack scored by Beastie Boy collaborator Money Mark, we are introduced to the variety of artists that comprise the group. They include (among others) Harmony Korine, screenwriter of controversial drama "kids," "Thumbsucker" director Mike Mills and Geoff McFetridge, a graphic artist who counts highly successful adverts for Pepsi and Nike among his commercial achievements.
The collective also boasts the acclaimed graffiti artist Barry McGee and his late wife Margaret Kilgallen. A formidable artist in her own right, Kilgallen's passing provides a touching backdrop to the history of the group, and the feature contains a tribute to her role as a driving force in Beautiful Losers artistic development and integrity.
As the audience watches the Beautiful Losers exhibition snowball to worldwide acclaim, it is treated to an uplifting story of self-belief, creativity and success against the odds.
Oscar Wilde once said a critic knows the price of everything and the value of nothing -- but it is the undeniable value of their art that "Beautiful Losers" impresses.
The ability to harness their wealth of creativity and insist upon its worth long before public recognition is worthy of respect from even the most cynical.
Although this inspirational and uplifting work could be criticized for being overlong, it is nevertheless mandatory viewing for anyone with creative aspirations.
Beautiful Losers will be screened at the London Film Festival on October 18 at 18.30 and October 21 at 16.15.
-- From CNN's Simon Laub
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