(Untitled)

(Untitled)

 

What dictates success in the arts? Is it financial gain? If so: how much? Is it accessibility? If so: to whom? Is it having fans? If so: how many? Two? Two million? More? Or is it simply being true to the vision that gave you the balls to actually even consider creating “art,” whatever that is, in the first place?

I saw Jonathan Parker’s quirky comedy in an art house that showcases exactly the “non-commercial” kind of art that this film comments on (RAW, in Hartford). Anyone who has ever roamed its halls has surely asked (no matter how eclectic, or fake-lectic their palette), “How is this art?” Or more to the point: “Why?”

But what I like about this is it is a knowledgeable inquiry: it takes its subject matter seriously. There are no easy digs at any avante garde art. Parker has just the right touch of showing the audience something as art that he knows will make the audience laugh, but then he is able to pull back enough so that one might be able to see, at the very least, what one might feign to see in these works. There is one brilliant moment where Marley Shelton’s Madeleine Gray, the art dealer, asks the young sound artist Adrian Jacobs how he can be so experimental about sound and so closed minded about new conceptual visual “art.”

And what is art, and who really knows? Parker doesn’t pretend to, but he knows the world: the people, the art, and the poseurs. There is the rich art collector who is looking to diversify his portfolio. Sure, he dresses funny for the easy laugh. But there is a great running joke where a gallery dealer plays on his lack of actual taste in art (“I find that the pieces that sell best are those where the artist shows the animals eyes.)

Madeline Gray, who runs the art house seems to really appreciate the art. She keeps Josh Jacobs, played by Eion Bailey, around because his commercial art sells. The stuff in her gallery does not. She does it for love, not money. But love of what? Art? Does she truly appreciate these works?  There are a couple telling moments. When Adrian hasn’t written a composition for an event she instructs him to play an old piece, stating that nobody will know the difference. At another point she is discussing how what turns her on in the art world is when something isn’t accepted or gets horrible reviews. Not the art itself mind you.

What she is referring to is the credo in the art world of who can tell now what will be great in the future. The great artists of our time were rejected. But there is a flaw in this theory (other than the obvious nature of it) that Josh Jacobs points out when he mentions that this art is not being rejected, but rather celebrated.

And we haven’t even gotten to our lead, played by Adam Goldberg with enough neuroses that you feel he really is trying to communicate through his bucket kicking music. But what is he trying to say? Somebody tries to engage him in conversation on this, and he stumbles, as if unsure. His work has only been alienating.

“(Untitled)” drops the viewer off in its pretentious New York scene and it scathes everybody. But it loves everybody too. So, in the end, most folks come out looking, well, like flawed real people. And isn’t that what the best art is about?

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