Jerry Blumenthal and Gordon Quinn of Chicago's Kartemquin Films focus for just under an hour on New York painter Leon Golub as he plans, executes, exhibits, and discusses one of his powerful canvases (1988). In the process Blumenthal and Quinn manage to make what is probably not only Kartemquin's best film but also the best film account of the creation of a work of art—an accomplishment that's leagues ahead of such efforts as Clouzot's The Mystery of Picasso and Paul Cox's Vincent. Lucidly following the step-by-step process of Golub's deliberations and creative work, the film also makes splendid use of TV news footage to pinpoint the social and political contexts of Golub's art—the degree to which the violence and power relationships that he depicts with such clarity exist all around us. One of the inspirations of this highly concentrated and kinetic documentary was to eliminate the critical discourse of the art world entirely; what we get instead are the comments and reactions of ordinary spectators, many of which are penetrating and perceptive. Bristling with energy, movement, thought, and passion, and enhanced by an especially effective music score, this is essential viewing.
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