In a madcap art world obsessed with money, fame and hype, how does an artist driven by justice, defiance and his own singular style thrive? Art Bastard is the tale of a rebel who never fit into today’s art world… yet has become one of its most provocative, rabble-rousing characters nevertheless. At once a portrait of the artist as a young troublemaker, an alternate history of modern art and a quintessential New York story, Art Bastard is as energetic, humorous and unapologetically honest as the uncompromising man at its center: Robert Cenedella.
CAVU Pictures presents a Concannon Productions film, Art Bastard, written and directed by Victor Kanefsky and produced by Chris T.
The new documentary will release in New York on May 20th at the Angelika Film Center and Lincoln Plaza Cinemas and on June 3rd in Los Angeles/Orange County at the Laemmle Monica Film Center in Santa Monica and Edwards University Town Center 6 in Irvine, followed by a national release.
Cenedella was a contemporary of Andy Warhol. But he has essentially served as the anti-Warhol. His noisy, raucous, color-splashed paintings of city scenes approach the world with a sincerity that defies the irony, frivolity and controversy-for-the-sake-of-controversy that have become the cultural currency since the 60s.
Yet, as Art Bastard reveals, Cenedella couldn’t be any more a product of these times. He was the son of a blacklisted writer, raised on crushed 50s dreams. He’s been haunted by dark family secrets that had him questioning his identity. His passionate convictions started so young they got him kicked out of high school. Even when he found solace and expression in art, he was an unabashed outsider – never a gallery darling, not pursued by museum curators, but an artist who was going to have his say regardless of who was paying attention. Even so, over time, Cenedella’s vast canvases, rife with the chaotic beauty of politics, humor, history and humanity, drew admirers from all walks of society – even from the vaunted art patrons who rejected him.
In a fast-moving series of riveting interviews with family members, art critics, museum directors, New York power brokers, art students and Cenedella himself, director Victor Kanefsky candidly presents Cenedella’s personal journey – and reveals the creation of a modern art career that ignored all the modern art rules.
Kanefsky follows Cenedella from his days selling cheeky I Like Ludwig buttons to pay his art school tuition to his apprenticeship in New York with George Grosz (1893-1959), the German painter and graphic artist who was the most outstanding caricaturist and political satirist of the period after World War I.
Grosz inspired Cenedella with his merging of refined technique with blistering social critique; from Cenedella’s provocative 1965 Yes Art exhibit which became the most popular – and debated – show of the year, lambasting the crass commercialism of the blossoming Pop Art movement, to his sudden, 12-year break from painting and his fruitful return as a teacher, mentor and unbowed iconoclast of American painting.
While Cenedella forthrightly questions the mechanics – and profit-making — of the art world, he has it out for no one. As he puts it: “It’s not what they show that bothers me, it’s what they don’t show.”
What Art Bastard shows, in stunning cinematic detail, are the living, breathing, storytelling canvases that Cenedella has created for six decades. Set to a rollicking soundtrack, the film not only tours Cendella’s life. It also tours his eye-poppingly intricate, New York-centered paintings as one might travel the city – peering into every corner to uncover Cenedella’s characters, commentary and emotions.
Running Time: 84 minutes
Rating: Not Unrated
Image provided by Marina Bailey film publicity