Friday, April 15, 2005

Attila Richard Lukacs at the Cinematheque

I discovered Attila Richard Lukacs (pronounced Lukash, by the way, in the Hungarian manner) on a high school field trip to the Vancouver Art Gallery. They had a mediocre touring exhibition of Dutch masters paintings -- the worst, least interesting examples of van Gogh and Rembrandt and such -- and I was wandering around, wondering what the big deal was (I didn't ever really get to appreciate art galleries until I was living outside Tokyo, which has some amazing ones). Then I stumbled onto a gigantic canvas -- I remember it as towering above me, being of truly formidable size, dominating the wall it was on -- of Henry Rollins (or so the tatoos suggested -- this was in his skinhead days, by the way), sitting naked in a cage, surrounded by cherubs, grapes, and the entrails of a disembowelled minotaur. He was looking out at the viewer impassively. This must have been during or shortly after the Young Romantics show that really got Lukacs his start. Even then, the painting floored me. Not just because, as it happened, I was a Black Flag fan -- but because of how it represented the male body, as a source of erotic power, but one hemmed in, constricted, shot through with a sort of fascism; it affected me physically, and I don't mean it gave me a hard on. Anyhow, Lukacs is in attendance at the Cinematheque tonight, for a screening of a biographical documentary about him, Drawing Out the Demons; I'll be there, assuming that the lineup doesn't stretch to Richmond.

Postscript, post-film:

So I got to ask Attila a question! He's lanky, skinny, giggly, quite full of life. I related my punk rock teenhood introduction to his work and asked about the guy with the Black Flag tattoos -- if it was a member of the band, etc.; he explained that it wasn't, that in addition to art historical references he wanted to include in his work a contemporary reference, for which tattoos were ideal. Other answers to questions from the Q&A: the stuffed German Shepherd is still in a box in storage somewhere; his paintings are back from New York and in storage on Denman Island, which required the use of the "largest ever truck" to make it to Denman; the kids in the film almost burned down his studio in Hawaii; and -- well, he had no comment to the question about who upholstered his Mom's couch, but he giggled a lot at the question. His detox time in Hawaii with a straight surfer roommate did not lead to the artist attempting to surf, we also learned; but it did inadvertently influence a series of paintings done on surfboards. Apparently it is quite cheap to fly surfboards to and from Hawaii -- they get a special rate, or such, so common they are; so he used them to send paintings back, wrapping six paintings around one surfboard, for a total of seven surfboards, saving hundreds of dollars on shipping. So now he has these surfboards and nothing else to do with them, so he's painting on them... Someone also put him through answering a question about how he felt about looking back on his crystal meth use, but the answer is what one would expect: grateful to have survived it and thankful for the support of those who helped him out. We only had ten minutes with him, though, since the Cinematheque lined up another show.

There's a whole other anecdote that I won't tell in detail; a bearded, well-dressed gay man who seemed to know Attila (and who I briefly took for the filmmaker) gave me his ticket, just as I was being turned away from the sold-out theatre. I felt a little suspicious of it -- because I'd taken him for the filmmaker, because he was giving me something for free, and because the ticket looked like it was old and wrinkled, like it might have been a year or two old. I didn't thank him as effusively as I should have, mostly because I felt like I was slinking into the theatre illegitimately; but I made it in, so -- bearded gay man, thank you! (Now I can do something else with the rest of my evening).

Good film, by the way -- intimate, perceptive, more interested in the artist than his art, but definitely an interesting show. It plays Saturday night as well, if you missed it. Maybe Attila will show up for that show, too. I suspect he kinda likes attention...

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