Scooter LaForge: A Life Of Art


Reviewed by: Sergiu Inizian

Scooter LaForge A Life Of Art
"An enthusiastic portrait that feels rushed and over-edited." | Photo: Courtesy of DOC NYC

Artistry and activism cross paths in this vivid homage to a New York icon who has captured the attention of the art world through striking creativity and flair. Scooter LaForge is suitable as a documentary subject; he's talkative, captivating and thrives on experimentation. Director Ethan Minsker, on the other hand, takes fewer risks than the artist, resulting in an enthusiastic portrait that feels rushed and over-edited.

LaForge's story is structured in chapters, which offer the viewer details about his background, vision and collaborations. The abundance of talking heads colours his journey, but is also overwhelming, given the fast pace at which they are introduced. They also diminish the artist's account of his own life, which weighs much more from an emotional standpoint. His chronicle about his queer adolescence is especially touching and explains so much about the darkness of his otherwise flamboyant art.

Converging his vision with LaForge's, Minsker seeks to create a collage that speaks to the way his subject developed his sensibility and how that artistic insight had influence all over the United States. The director uses animation, stop-motion and claymation to cleverly hint at a coast-to-coast artistic tradition which LaForge absorbed and reinterpreted over the years. The New Mexico-born painter is often presented in the same light as Warhol, Basquiat and pop artist Keith Haring. His work's impact expands beyond underground galleries, conveying culturally relevant messages in a unique style which blends grime and fervour.

Always connected to socially charged events, LaForge feels the need to talk about the hardship of others, both through his art and directly to the camera. His decorated walls, galleries and sculptures are not just dynamic embroidery to his words but stand as time capsules: to the AIDS epidemic in San Francisco, a post-9/11 New York and the recent Black Lives Matter protests. In recounting his experience with Covid-19, he offers a glimpse into the resilience of the arts community, who reclaimed the streets as canvases, and the power of charity in times of struggle.

While LaForge's personality and work are compelling, the erratic cinematic form doesn't allow the viewer to fully discover the man behind the art. The quick editing, accompanied by ubiquitous psychedelic music gives Minsker's documentary the feeling of a music video. The information is scattered among various interviews and it feels like there's no time to dive deeper into the painter's motivations or personal life. With each new sequence, the audience understands his art, but the restless pace eclipses genuine emotions which remain hidden within the paintings.

The viewer finds out Minsker is a friend (or at least collaborator) of LaForge's, which offers more insight into his reverential directorial approach. The filmmaker is ambitious in trying to imitate the visual style of the artist but remains content with just promoting his subject's work without digging too deep into more emotional matters. Ultimately, the result is an uneven but entertaining project that places the spotlight on an uncompromising artist whose painful journey led him to become a staple of New York's underground art scene.

Reviewed on: 09 Nov 2023
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Profile of the New York-based artist who’s been praised as a combination of Warhol and Basquiat.

Director: Ethan H Minsker

Writer: Ethan H Minsker

Year: 2023

Runtime: 80 minutes

Country: US


DOC NYC 2023

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