Friday, May 27, 2022

How To Draw A Bunny Documentary

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The Artist Richard Lippold

He was a totally honest man, incorruptible. And in this sense unmanagable, but I think that the people who did know him and appreciated him, saw in him what Ive described A certain kind of simplicity in the midst of all that complexity.

For me, there is an openness to Ray Johnson, an open framework to the reality and concept of Ray Johnson, which allows an open flow between art and life, and which for me is itself opening and liberating.

Unfortunately in this film under what seems to be the pretense of making a filmic collage the filmmakers work against this openness as if they were patching up and filling gaps and holes. Shredding and truncating original material, such as recordings of Johnsons happenings, splicing passages from these with interviews with dealers, presuming to combine and mix material, instead of juxtaposing it in a way that would at least preserve some of its integrity and leave the associations up to the viewers.

The result is one of the more annoying documentaries of an artist that I have seen. The rationale of making a filmic collage doesnt work, for me. It is just distracting and intrusive, it displaces the richer content. Ill offer a few examples further below.

Towards the end of the film, the filmmakers intrusiveness tapers off somewhat: maybe it was because of the seriousness of Ray Johnsons suicide.

How To Draw A Bunny

Interviews with Christo, Chuck Close, Roy Lichtenstein, Judith Malina, James Rosenquist and others help illuminate the life and work of Warhol contemporary Ray Johnson.Interviews with Christo, Chuck Close, Roy Lichtenstein, Judith Malina, James Rosenquist and others help illuminate the life and work of Warhol contemporary Ray Johnson.Interviews with Christo, Chuck Close, Roy Lichtenstein, Judith Malina, James Rosenquist and others help illuminate the life and work of Warhol contemporary Ray Johnson.

The Ray Johnson Tapes

The film is all the more difficult to watch because I have had the benefit of being familiar with my friend Nicholas Maravells video piece, The Ray Johnson Tapes, hours of video of Johnson, essentially a collaborative work between him and Nick . Over the years on visits to Nick he would show me passages from the material: it imbued my memory such that I still have the feeling that I must have met Ray, though unfortunately we never crossed paths. I do have the DVDs of the final edited version of the Tapes, and I look forward to viewing them again this week, 10 years after Ray Johnsons death on January 13th, 1995.

The Devil And Daniel Johnston

Ever since Robert Johnson allegedly sold his soul to the devil, music and the underworld have had a curious relationship. One of the prime examples of this is Daniel Johnston, an influential alternative music pioneer who had bipolar disorder.

Darker than most music biopics, The Devil And Daniel Johnston does a great job at diving into the psyche of an artist who was unafraid to push musical boundaries and create new lanes for himself.

Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold

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Told through archival footage as well as interviews with many superstars, the documentary provides an intriguing look at Didion’s life and what motivated her writing. While Didion’s fan base is somewhat large, many viewers have found themselves introduced to Didion’s work through this film.

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Comedy/drama. Starring Isabelle Adjani, Gerard Depardieu, Virginie Ledoyen, Gregori Derangere and Peter Coyote. Directed by Jean-Paul Rappeneau.

This feeling of nonstop movement is enhanced by a pulsing original score by Gabriel Yared, who does for “Bon Voyage” what Bernard Herrmann did for Hitchcock’s movies. Yared finds a rhythm for the mayhem. Those of us reading subtitles rather than listening to the dialogue will be particularly aware of the precise way his background music complements the story.

Director Jean-Paul Rappeneau co-wrote the script and has gone out of his way to say it is complete fiction. But Rappeneau is an expert on this chaotic period and the dismal behavior of many of his compatriots, who were willing to sell out their country, preferring to think of it as compromise. The unsavory characters in “Bon Voyage” — including the two-faced French cabinet minister Beaufort , the self-involved actress Viviane and the opportunist journalist Alex — may be made up, but they surely had parallels running around France at the time.

Rappeneau successfully maneuvers the high-wire act of keeping his movie light without ever making light of the dire situation. He accomplishes this by focusing on the harebrained Viviane, who sees everything in terms of how it will benefit her.

— Advisory: This film contains brief sexual situations and some gun shots.

 Ruthe Stein

— Advisory: Strong sexual content and drug use.

ÂKenneth Baker

Searching For Sugar Man

Searching For Sugar Man tells the story of the singer Rodriguez, an American singer who unknowingly became a national celebrity in South Africa when his songs became popular there as he lived in domestic obscurity. As his popularity grew in the 1990s, a group of superfans made it their mission to find the man behind Rodriguez.

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One of the most acclaimed documentaries of recent years, Sugar Man was lauded due to its involving story and poignant portrayal of Rodriguez’s troubles with artistry. As he enjoys a surge in popularity late in his career, the documentary drives home the importance of being patient for success.

Standing In The Shadows Of Motown

Many people know about the stars signed to Detroit’s Motown Records in the 1960s-1970s, such as Marvin Gaye and the Jackson 5. However, this documentary tells the story of the unknown backing band that helped make these artists stars, a band called The Funk Brothers.

Released in 2002, this documentary examines the largely unknown band that helped create some of the biggest musical stars of that decade. Telling the story through interviews with the surviving band members as well as archival footage, this film presents an intimate picture of the band as they helped launch the careers of music superstars.

Best Documentaries About Overlooked Artists

While there are many documentaries about artists, these tell the important stories of visionaries who have not gotten the attention they deserved.

Some of the most important and influential documentaries in recent years have been about artists. Whether they be about music icons , athletes , or movie stars , audiences have been fascinated to learn more about artists they know and love.

RELATED: 10 Most Underrated Documentaries Of The Last 20 Years

However, documentaries about unsung artists have also been embraced by audiences. With many of them focusing on artists who either found themselves struggling with fame or were never close to achieving it in the first place, these documentaries tell the important stories of visionaries who have not gotten the attention they deserved.

The Ray Johnson Videos

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The videos are comprised of over seven hours of rare video footage of Ray Johnson, a conceptual and visual artist who is considered to be the founder of the Mail Art movement.

The painter Chuck Close in A Panel Discussion on Ray Johnson:

Ray was a much more important artist than was generally recognized by the art world. He was an idiosyncratic figure. I think he was very inventive in bringing his work, through his collages, and things that he’s known for, actually, predating Pop Art with the use of pop subject matter before Lichtenstein and Warhol. But, probably, he is best known to the general public as the inventor of the Correspondence School and of mail art.


The Artist Peter Schuyff

The thing that I guess made me most sad, was the thought, or image, of him being alone, him making this decision on his own, of him driving to the East End, on his own. This notion of Ray engineering an event whether hes at home engineering an event by working, or whether hes engineering an event by cashing in his chips and going for a swim this notion of him engineering this event comes as no surprise, comes as no shock the more detailed thought of Ray being alone, being in great pain, thats something that comes as a shock to me.

Meet Ray Johnson The Greatest Artist Youve Never Heard Of

Even if you cant name a single work by the late artist Ray Johnsoneven if you cant picture oneyou may have heard some variation on his pranks. Theyve become something of art-world lore.

Like the time a client asked for a 25 percent discount and he obliged, and delivered the work with a quarter of it sliced off. There was the time when a different Ray Johnson streaked through the Vatican, and our Ray Johnson appeared nude at his next opening and did the same. Then there was the time he dropped hot dogs from the sky over an East River island.

As Johnsons dealer, Richard Feigen, recalls in John Walter and Andre Moores 2002 documentary about the artist, How to Draw a Bunny, I got a bill from a company for the aeroplane and the hot dogs. Feigen, who has the countenance of a Hoover-era F.B.I. agent, seems to be the one person in the world exasperated, rather than entertained, by Johnsons antics.

Many of Johnsons interactions in the art world carried this same madcap, convoluted spirit of his hot-dog airdrop. In the 60s, 70s, and 80s, Johnson was a consummate prankster, a deadpan court jester of New Yorks avant-garde whose tricks allowed him to embrace and send-up an industry that kept his mainstream success at bay. Hes often called the greatest artist youve never heard of.

It was not a joke, Christo responds firmly.

How To Draw A Bunny Screening

BFA Visual & Critical Studies presents a screening of the acclaimed documentary, How to Draw a Bunny, about artist Ray Johnson, in celebration of “BOB BOX SVA” at the VCS Flatiron Project Space .

How to Draw a Bunny is a feature-length documentary about the Detroit-born pop and performance artist Ray Johnson. Filmmakers John Walter and Andrew L. Moore delve into the mysterious life and death of Johnson, an artist whose “world was made up of amazing coincidences, serendipities and karmic gags,” according to Michael Kimmelman of The New York Times. After Johnsons suicide, Moore and Walter conducted interviews with artists including Christo, Chuck Close, Roy Lichtenstein, Judith Malina and James Rosenquist. In addition, they gathered photographs, works of art and home movies, which were edited into a fast-paced narrative exploring the artists life. The filmmakers “couldnt have chosen a more elusive subject for a movie; their success in evoking Johnson, and in documenting his world, is a triumph of sympathy over psychology, memory over historicism,” wrote Stuart Klawans for The Nation. The film premiered at the 2002 Sundance Film Festival, where it won the Special Jury Prize. The film also won the Grand Prix du Public 2002 at the Rencontres Internationales de Cinema in Paris and was nominated for a 2003 Independent Spirit Award and listed in New York magazines Top Ten of 2004.

School of Visual Arts

Twenty Feet From Stardom

From the director of Won’t You Be My Neighborthis documentary focuses on the stories of background artists in the music industry. Shows the lives of some of the voices behind iconic songs, the documentary highlights the passion and hard work of many backup singers.

RELATED: 10 Best Music Documentaries On Netflix

With a surprising and deeply emotional story, Twenty Feet From Stardom works well, in part, because it dives deep into an aspect of the music industry that many people take for granted. It makes the important and poignant point that those in the background may be just as important as those in the foreground.

Responses To How To Draw A Bunny

  • Bud Parr
  • November 25, 2008 at 10:57 am

    Great essay, Thom. Many of us who write about books, serious literary fiction and literature in translation in particular, feel the same way; its a complaint commensurate with the shift/decline in print media.

    Dont discount blogs though. At least in the book world there are a lot of avid writers not only picking up where the old mainstream media left off, but finding new ways to critique and engage books new online literary journals are popping up too, for the very same reason that there are more filmmakers: technology has reduced the barriers to entry. And now, former professional critics are becoming online critics, paid or not, and enjoying the freedom of the format and the connection with their audience that rarely existed in print. The result is an eclectic and vibrant mix of voices and Id assert that if theres an audience for doc films, which there is, then theres the potential at least for the same sort of renaissance in doc-film criticism.

    Bud Parr, blogger,

  • June 18, 2016 at 4:22 pm

  • Required Viewing: Essential Documentaries About Famous Artists

    Weâre happy if our previous roundup of feature films about artists inspired or rejuvenated any of your artistic or bohemian impulses. That said, pull up a chair. Letâs get real. Here you will find some of our favorite documentaries about artists, many of them current and some even freshly made. Dig out the heart of Louise Bourgeoisâ gigantic spiders. Go behind Pablo Picassoâs brushstrokes. Wonder eternally if Banksyâs fooling you. Rebels, superstars, activists, eccentrics, con artists â theyâre all here and theyâre ready to tell you their story.

    Gutsy sculptress Louise Bourgeois died at 98 years old in 2010, but not before her retrospective at the Guggenheim and the release of this intimate, captivating documentary. The mark she left on art history is indelible. The artist? Oh, sheâs feisty. Louise Bourgeois: The Spider, The Mistress and The Tangerine uncovers the immense emotional origins of her giant spiders, sewn pink orgies, surreal sculptural genitalia, and remarkable, intricate âroomâ installations, as told by the Louise âpsychological vampireâ Bourgeois herself. It will leave you charmed, intimidated, devastated and, possibly, titillated.

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