2013, Cinema Libre, 89 min, USA, Dir: Mary C. Reese, Doug Blake, Nancye Ferguson, Michael LaFetra, Stephen Nemeth
This new documentary profiles Robert Williams, whose rise from hot rod/underground comics illustrator to hotly collected conceptual realist offers a fascinating perspective on the contemporary art scene.
Robert Williams was an artist in search of a movement. A prolific oil painter whose painstakingly detailed work often featured naked women, death, destruction, booze and clowns, he didn’t quite fit the fine art mold. In the early 1960s he was confronted with trendy abstraction and superficial pop art. Schooled in the Hot Rod Culture of Ed “Big Daddy” Roth and Von Dutch, he emerged as a leader in the Underground Comic revolution along with R. Crumb, contributing regularly to Zap Comix. His antisocial paintings of an alternative reality were marginalized by the art world for decades although he became a hero of sorts for underground artists. His notoriety exploded when his painting "Appetite for Destruction" was used (and much vilified) as the cover for that 1987 Guns N’ Roses’ album.
When he started Juxtapoz Magazine in 1994, his movement found him. Legions of artists looking for a place within the contemporary art world for their cartoonish realism identified with his “LowBrow” aesthetic. At the time, Williams predicted that, “Low brow and alternative art are the crack in the dam and with this leak the art world will never be the same.”
By 2010 the art world could ignore him no longer and he was included in the prestigious Whitney Biennial at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. ROBERT WILLIAMS MR. BITCHIN documents this influential artist as he rises to the top of the art world, always an outsider.
"The best movie about an artist I've ever seen!" - Ed Ruscha