Monday, February 11, 2019

Yes! But is it Art? Nude/Naked/Naked/Nude

Sorel Carradine and
Bjørn Johnson
Nude/Naked by Paul Hoan Zeidler asks the eternal question: What is Art? Of course, the answer is still and always blowin' in the wind.  The winds of time are winds of change and the question asked here advances the idea, perhaps, that it's up to us to embrace or condemn what may appear as perversion: pornography or high Art. Zeidler, directing his own work, asks and answers his own questions. 

The question of morality and nude photos goes on and on with Robert Mapplethorpe's sensational black and white photos and before him Ruth Bernard's spectacular photographs. The questions that Zeidler asks are validated and hyped by the reference to Bennett Duquesnes's (pronounced Do Kane) (Bjørn Johnson) altercation with a protester at an exhibit of his work in a Pittsburgh gallery ten years prior.  In 2009, Youtube and the internet were well underway then, but in 2019 the flurry of Instagram videos and virtually instantaneous broadcast of any event where one person has an iPhone, the salacious will always take precedence over the mundane.  Trolls are standing by to hack and condemn just about anything.
Sorel Carradine and
Jonathan E. Grey
Zeidler's polemic turns to how tabloid mentality is truly rampant in the United States today. Through the device of recorded 'television and radio' shows that are broadcast with static intervals to depict the quick changing of stations: Right Wing and Religious talk radio broadcast strong condemnation of the photographer's work.  This all because of an unfortunate and somewhat inexplicable shooting of a student of Bennett's, Julian Simic (Lucas Alifano), by Addy's boyfriend, Stevie (Steven Tyler Howell).  A thin device of Julian's being an obnoxious drunk and an easily available hand gun boost Bennett and Addy back into the spotlight.
As Julian's girlfriend Darcy,  Asia Lynn Pitts, (who does double duty as a sneaky journalist) finds her way out of the melee that we eventually see in flashback, which tended to confuse the story somewhat for me. 
Because of their new notoriety, Bennett and Addy, who have been virtual partners, bringing them to attention and success in the past, the whole issue of "naked vs nude" rises and forces them to defend their relationship as well as the art that they collaborate on.  
Is Duquesne's relationship with Addy, (Sorel Carradine) his daughter 'unusual?'  Or are they dedicated artists truly collaborating as photographer and model to further the concept of the human body as worthy of capture?  Both are artists.  The visceral response collides with a rational look at the intention of the photos of Addy published ten years earlier in a book: "Thirteen, Fourteen, Fifteen", a nude survey of her adolescence, which, to me, makes not only the idea of the 'art photos' valid, but also exacerbates the limbic reactions by those who find "nakedness!" unacceptable, with the term 'naked' rising to the surface in a pejorative way.  Fascinating.  

An attempt by Hank (Jonathan E. Grey), Bennett's attorney, to calm things down... smoothing the waters so to speak, spins out of control because of Bennett's unwillingness to find a compromise. He repeats the phrase, "It's in the photos," over and over again when the issue is about the relationship with Addy (and referring to other less controversial photos made in Syria) and how the photos were made. 

The relationship between father and daughter is not all together clear and events from Addy's past at the age of thirteen unfold. The issue of her parents' divorce adds to the texture of the piece. Indeed, the issue of 'texture' becomes a point in their collaboration.

Clearly, Zeidler is taking aim at the under educated and less sophisticated 'Right' with the radio and television voices which were somewhat muddled and too obviously provocative, to me.   

A final scene with Bennett and Addy excitedly discovering a dagger of light that has slashed through the living room with Addy quickly stripping to the nude and Bennett doing his best to shoot her movement choices reflects the absolute collaboration of their Art Making.  

A delicate conclusion is poignant and gives pause to the relationship the two have shared for the elapsed ten years between Addy at the age of thirteen and her now adult reaction to her own world and the world of her father and their art. 

Provocative and well done.    

NUDE/NAKED by Paul Horan Zeidler
McCadden Place Theatre
1157 N. McCadden Place
Los Angeles, CA 90038
Tickets and information
323 468 1008
Closing soon. 

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