Michael Blackwood & Nancy Rosen - 14 Americans: New Directions for the 1970s (1980)
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
WITH: Vito Acconci, Laurie Anderson, Alice Aycock, Scott Burton, Peter Campus, Chuck Clo se, Nancy Graves, Joseph Kosuth, Gordon Matta- Clark, Mary Miss, Elizabeth Murray, Dennis Oppenheim, Dorothea Rockburne and Joel Shapiro.
MICHAEL Blackwood and Nancy Rosen's ''14 Americans'' is a lively and informative feature that marks the re-emergence of the Film Forum, open in a new location after a year's hiatus and still programming independent features. A documentary, ''14 Americans'' is a look at a group of the most highly regarded artists of the 70's, providing each with a few minutes to discuss and demonstrate his or her work. Without narration or other commentary, it offers clear, illuminating glimpses of the artists and manages to present them in fresh and varying ways.
Not all of are shown off to the best advantage when given unlimited opportunity to discuss their art in abstract terms. Joseph Kosuth, who discusses his billboard filled with words and who tries to explain why he feels the best way to approach the problem of language is to confront it directly, talks a mile a minute, and somewhat muddily. Like Alice Aycock, who speaks about the origins of her work, he sounds quite high-handed.
But many of the artist viewed here, like Nancy Graves as she discusses her watercolors and camel sculptures, are very articulate about what they do, and all of them are fascinating to watch. Chuck Close, listening idly to ''Hollywood Squares'' while painstakingly airbrushing a small section of an enormous face, appears no less passionately involved in his work than the late Gordon Matta-Clark, who is seen carving shapes into an abandoned building in Antwerp.
Mr. Matta-Clark remarked that one reason he liked working with abandoned buildings was that the results were ''undocumentable.'' But Mr. Blackwood and Miss Rosen rise to the challenge very well, letting the camera roam through the unpredictable space Mr. Matta-Clark carved.
The works are filmed in appropriate, adaptable styles, with special attention paid to capturing each piece on its own terms. With Joel Shapiro's sculptures, the film makers immediately emphasize scale; with Laurie Anderson's conceptual art and music, they concentrate on the general strangeness of her efforts. Miss Anderson has equipped one violin with an electronically altered voice that says, ''I dreamed I had to take a test in a Dairy Queen on another planet.''
Scott Burton presents his furniture, saying of one piece, ''It is a chair, but in a way it's also a portrait of a chair,'' and maintaining, of a steel table and chair almost too heavy for him to move, ''they are real furniture, and they're meant to be used.''
Vito Acconci talks about the intimations of destruction in one of his sculptures, and says he can ''play with notions of art as therapy.'' Mary Miss, Elizabeth Murray, Peter Campus, Dennis Oppenheim and Dorothea Rockburne are also interviewed. They all contribute to the spirit of daring and bold experimentation that is the film's prevailing mood.
-Janet Maslin for the New York Times
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