He's been lost in the Congo and jailed in Tokyo. He's shredded, destroyed, and painted nearly everything in his self-destructive path. His art is messy and raw, and he makes it "for the people who don't give a BLEEP about art." He is David Choe, and he is extreme to the max. His childhood pal, filmmaker Harry Kim, followed Choe with a camera for nearly a decade and has finally released his highly anticipated film, Dirty Hands: The Art and Crimes of David Choe.
Choe's hands are definitely dirty, both literally and metaphorically, but to wash them would be to erase the boundless, reckless creativity that is his nature. He is blowing up this month with a huge show in LA,an entire issue of Juxtapoz dedicated to him, and now the film, which rounds out Choe's month and digs deep under the skin of the artist, who might be considered insane by ordinary people.
Some of his work warrants discomfort; the shock value is high. He made a calendar full of paintings of women he'd slept with accompanied by super raunchy, lady-hating text. A feminist artist comments on it in the film, reading some of the words aloud, and it made me want to hate David Choe. Some scenes from his Congo travels also made me squirm. But what I was looking for in this film was the soft side of this badass, and it was there.
In scenes with his family and girlfriend, and when he talks about his time in jail, it was harder to hate him. And I'm telling you, I was trying, because he is a sex-obsessed, chronically adolescent dude. But his talent is undeniable, and it's pretty clear he has a heart. He just has no inhibitions and a lot of checkmarks in the inappropriate column (at least in this society). But that's one of the reasons why I'm a fan of his interviews with other artists. The unconventionality of his questions makes them fresh -- same thing goes for his art.
Locals will enjoy hearing about Choe's time in Oakland, seeing shows in San Jose and SF, and footage of one of his self-described "sell out" corporate gigs where he and Kid Beyond perform live for a buttoned-up crowd. The film is gritty and rough, befitting the subject. It is not for kids or straight-laced folks, due to all the blood, guts and "t and a." If there's one thing that can't be shoplifted that Choe is stocked up on it's guts, and the film is an insider's portrait of his genuine struggle for the glory.
Dirty Hands opens May 21, 2010 at The Roxie in San Francisco. For more information visit roxie.com.