films about artists, lowbrow art

Film review: Robert Williams Mr Bitchin’

July 28, 2013

Mr Bitchin’ is a contradiction. On one hand he says that jealousy gets him out of bed in the morning. On the other, he thinks for a moment before nodding and confirming his is happy with his life.

And he should be, mind you. Robert Williams has reached the age of 70. He has a huge audience. He can still ride a unicycle, and for that matter so can his devoted wife.

The couple met at art school in L.A. and it must have seemed like fate, since they were the only two students passionate about that very American craze, hotrodding.

They were also on the right coast of America to get swept along by psychedelia. Williams worked on posters for underground bands, and for car racers in the no less far out hot rod scene.

But along with his many day jobs, including a stint with a freak show and a bit of short order cooking, the driven and visionary Williams continued to paint.

And well, the artist mashes up two genres: surrealism and history painting. We get complex narrative renderings of the Piltdown Man hoax and, erm, the life of Debbie Harry.

Harry appears in person and defends Williams against frequent accusations of sexism. Many have been critical of his lurid conflation of female nudity and junk food.

Things got worse when rock group Guns N’ Roses used one of his images for the sleeve of their debut album: a depiction of the rape of mankind by technology.

This was too much for some and went over many heads. Bassist Duff McKagen sums it up for MTV, saying, “That’s deep”, in a (male) blonde moment.

Needless to say, Williams comes across as more of a thinker than the band who brought him to public notoriety. One of his painterly ambitions is to represent the fifth dimension.

From what this reviewer understands, this is a realm in which two different realities coexist. Perhaps it is a form of psychosis, another favourite term for this artist.

Which brings us back to the jealous/happy schism. Williams craves recognition but enjoys his daily existence. No wonder he needs another dimension. In a sense we all do.

Robert Williams Mr Bitchin’ will soon be available on DVD and VOD through Cinema Libre Studio.

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