Dirty Hands - The Art and Crimes of David Choe
Can you go from graffiti artist and petty
thief to celebrated modern artist without letting it go to your head?
This is the main dilemma of Dirty
Hands - The Art and Crimes of David Choe which follows seven years in
the life of a street artist and small-time hood who has grown a huge
following in the art world and a true hipster cache (he was brought in to
paint the heroine's quirky room in the popular film Juno).
David Choe is often angry, sometimes
apathetic, occasionally violent, regularly misogynistic, obsessively vulgar
and yet often a charming and intensely self-aware host in this portrait of
an artist as a juvenile delinquent.
just bad timing for the makers of Dirty Hands that
a more innovative documentary on another celebrated street artist - Exit
By the Gift Shop - is coming out at about the same time and stealing
most of the buzz that this film was hoping to receive.
other slight problem I have personally is that I have to admit I'm not quite
as big a fan of Choe's work as the filmmakers and the people surrounding
him. While I do recognize the talent there, I don't always respond
viscerally to his work, particularly his early tagging. I live in a
city that is well-known for its street art, and Choe's artwork does not
always live up to stuff I see on a daily basis. However, Choe has
become very respected in the art world, so obviously there is something
there that I do not always see in the work.
However, if I don't always buy into the final product, I can't deny that the
guy is passionate about his work - occasionally at a disturbing level, as
exhibited by a section of this film where Choe repeatedly punches himself in
the face in order to use his own blood as paint. Other parts show him
using urine and soy sauce for colors.
determination to bleed for his art seems to be figurative as well as
most intriguing thing about the man is that he is not in it for the
money. Choe creates art for the same reason all true artists do -
because he has no choice but do it.
will also throw himself into things just for the experience of it -
everything from taking part in the LA riots to flying to Africa in search of
turning point in his life appears to be when Choe was involved with an
altercation with a Japanese policeman. Though it appears to have been
something of a misunderstanding, what can't be denied is that instead of
taking the time to figure out what was happening, Choe struck first and
found out what was happening later. Therefore, even when he later
explains how he was railroaded, the audience can not help but think that
even with the extenuating circumstances, had he just kept his cool he
wouldn't have gone to jail.
spent three months in the jail, and while you can't exactly say he became
mature, he certainly grew from the experience.
Another telling segment shows a female fan uncomfortably reading the
completely angry, sexist and bitter text Choe wrote for his first calendar,
supposedly a tribute to twelve former lovers. It quickly becomes
obvious that Choe craves women and despises them in equal measure.
the very passion that got him stupidly into trouble with the law and his
lovers also makes him an innovative artist and a flawed-but-beguiling human
Choe is a fascinating contradiction; for this his world is an intriguing one
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2010 PopEntertainment.com.
All rights reserved. Posted: April 30, 2010.