Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

March 26, 2009

Guest of Cindy Sherman

Filed under: art,Film — louisproyect @ 6:34 pm

The documentary “Guest of Cindy Sherman” is the definitive study of a contemporary art world that Eric Bogosian, one of the film’s astute interviewees, calls “completely bullshit”. Directed by and featuring Paul H-O (the initials stand for the surnames of his Japanese mother and American father: Hasegawa-Overacker), a long-time denizen of the art world who was host of the public access cable TV show GalleryBeat in the 1980s, it examines the celebrity, ambition, power, and money that taints the art world. It even affected his long-time relationship with Cindy Sherman, who personifies those aspects of a world largely indistinguishable from Wall Street-its principal benefactor.

As a young man Paul H-O started out as a painter, but soon found his calling in the quirky, irreverent cable show that he described as “Beavis and Butthead go to the artworld”. Before there was an Internet, the only way that a true underground perspective could be put forward was on public access TV stations, which he describes as the youtube of its day.

Those who held serious power in economics, politics or culture in the early 80s tended to view people like Paul H-O as upstarts, in much the same manner as bloggers are viewed today. In one scene, drawn like many from his Gallerybeat TV show, Paul is confronted by a beefy Julian Schnabel, who resenting how his work was depicted on an earlier Gallerybeat episode calls him a masturbator. For those who have seen Schnabel’s paintings, and-worse-his movies, this scene is worth the price of admission.

An excerpt from a GalleryBeat show

Despite his outsider image, or perhaps because of it, Paul H-O was able to wrangle an interview with Cindy Sherman, the prototypical postmodernist artist who had already become famous for her photographic self-portraits, which transformed her into housewives, prostitutes, virginal schoolgirls, etc. Her purpose was to render artistically the key insight of postmodernism that identity was always shifting. Of course it also helped that postmodernism was widely accepted in the very business world that was throwing buckets of cash at the latest fad. I vividly recall the Barbara Kruger teletype piece in the Goldman-Sachs cafeteria in 1986 cycling one “subversive” message after another to the effect of how rotten big business was. It had no effect on Robert Rubin apparently except perhaps to help him persuade visitors to the cafeteria how “hip” the firm was.

Eric Bogosian on eating dinner with Cindy Sherman

After several interviews, Sherman and Paul H-O began to develop an attraction to each other and finally became lovers. Their relationship was always unequal however. She was the wealthy and famous artist and he was her lover. Whenever he found himself in group photos with her and other celebrities, the photo was always cropped of his image before it ended up in Vanity Fair or ArtForum. The ultimate indignity, however, was when they went to one of a number of banquets that honored her. She was seated at the a-list table along with the usual power hitters, while Paul was seated a few tables away. The place card did not even include his name, only “Guest of Cindy Sherman”-the title of this terrific movie.

In this movie, Paul H-O turns his life into art in the same way that another downtown luminary once did. In fact, I have not had more pleasure from this kind of movie since watching Spalding Gray’s “Swimming to Cambodia” some years ago. “Guest of Cindy Sherman” opens tomorrow at New York’s Cinema Village and in Santa Fe, another art center. For more information on “Guest of Cindy Sherman”, go to the official website.

6 Comments »

  1. Thank you, Louis.

    Your review was a pleasure to read, and I feel you understand what Tom Donahue and I had at least attempted to communicate. Love has a rough road in the high school of adulthood.

    Paul H-O

    Comment by Paul H-O — March 27, 2009 @ 1:04 am

  2. I’m glad Paul liked your review. It was a fun read.

    Comment by Renegade Eye — March 27, 2009 @ 5:51 am

  3. This is really beneath you Louis, and I say this with respect. Why are Beth B.’s biomorphic images less artistic than Eva Hesse’s biomorphic sculptures? Or Casimir Malevich’s Suprematist paintings of black circles and squares? What is the significance of Cindy Sherman’s ordering lobster? Would Picasso have ordered something else, or Degas? I haven’t seen the film, but from the evidence of this review Paul H-O doesn’t appear to be a very incisive critic of the visual arts.

    Comment by Stuart Newman — March 27, 2009 @ 4:41 pm

  4. […] sad “Guest of Cindy Sherman” We went to see the documentary,“Guest of Cindy Sherman” , last night in Greenwich Village and it left me with mixed feelings. Very entertaining and maybe a […]

    Pingback by Funny, sad “Guest of Cindy Sherman” « d’Arte Board — March 28, 2009 @ 8:27 pm

  5. Thanks for this info, and the efforts of the artworld denizens to explain the profound depths of the pussy portraits were wonderful.

    I can’t wait to see Paul H-O’s movie. Ahem, “film.”

    Comment by macon d — April 9, 2009 @ 12:47 am

  6. […] Julian Schnabel gets taken down in a documentary in the same spirit as “The Square”. Titled “Guest of Cindy Sherman”, it can be rented for $3.99—a bargain at twice the […]

    Pingback by The Square | Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist — December 30, 2017 @ 9:48 pm


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