By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)
During the 1960s, New York painter Robert Cenedella emerged from the art world as a defiant voice amid the changing climate of contemporary art. A student of late German expressionist George Grosz, Cenedella honed his skills and developed his unique style and voice at the Art Students League in New York City. A man from humble beginnings and a somewhat dysfunctional upbringing, he brings some of that real world, unsheltered experience to his art and is not afraid to express his critical views of the world and other contemporary artists. Cenedella comes across as a working person’s artist with art work that recreates New York City street-level life, but from the perspective of a man who loves the city. Despite his struggles to get the respect from the art world, he never compromised his art for popularity and is finally getting the acknowledgment he deserves.
Written and directed by Victor Kanefsky, Art Bastard is a fascinating and poignant portrait of a defiant and tenacious artist who fearlessly challenged the world of modern art and was not afraid to critique art snobs through his work. Kanefsky’s film offer his audiences an intimate look at a man shaped by his turbulent beginnings which fueled his strength to fight for his beliefs and convictions. Cenedella isn’t at all a hard-hearted person, however. In the film, the artist opens his heart about his emotional baggage from his past, his obvious love and pride for his family, and his passion for his art.
Kanefsky has made a great film about a brilliant artist who is finally getting his due. Prior to watching the film, I was completely unaware of the artist, but am happy that I was offered the film for review. Since viewing the film, I consider myself an admirer of his artwork, though I may not agree with all of his views on the art world. Still, I applaud his boldness and courage in expressing his opinions. Cenedella could have compromised his art at any time in his career for the sake of fitting in and possibly, achieving success, but then again, he wouldn’t be the same man and artist celebrated in this documentary film. If given the chance to view the film, I highly recommend it. Art Bastard opened in NYC last Friday and is currently playing at the Angelika Film Center and Lincoln Plaza Cinemas. It will also open in other select theaters in the U.S. For a list of theaters showing the documentary, go to http://www.artbastard.com/content/theaters .