Friday, January 24, 2014
Remembering the Artist
Art movements are powerful. So powerful, they can obscure great artists that don't fit the genre. The artist's only hope is to be "rediscovered" after death. Such was the case for one painter whose work was returned to the spotlight by the man who knew him best, one of the world's most famous actors, who also happened to be the artist's son.
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PARK CITY, Utah (AP) — Creativity runs in the De Niro family.
Robert De Niro's father, Robert De Niro Sr., was an abstract expressionist painter, part of the post-WWII art scene, which produced such talent as Jackson Pollock. He was even endorsed by the famed art collector and socialite, Peggy Guggenheim. But while he was successful when he started out in the 1940s and '50s, De Niro Sr.'s work went out of style as pop art became the trend in the '60s.
He died in 1993 at 71, but his story is now being told by his Oscar-winning son. De Niro has made a documentary about his father called "Remembering the Artist Robert De Niro Sr," which premiered at Sundance Film Festival and will air on HBO in June. He also put some of his father's work on display at the Julie Nestor Gallery in Park City.
While attending a reception at the gallery on Sunday, De Niro said the intention was to make the documentary for his family.
"(I) wanted to make a documentary about my father with footage, whatever footage we had; people, whoever was around that were still with us, (I) wanted to have them interviewed and talk about him and have it for the family, for my kids, the grandkids," he said. "And then it went this way that HBO picked it up which is really great."
When asked what he thought his father would think of the film about him, De Niro joked that he would probably be uncomfortable by the attention. "He would be flattered on the one hand and say, 'Well, I don't know, that's not accurate' or this or that," he said.
The documentary focuses on De Niro Sr.’s career as well as his role as a loving father. The younger De Niro reportedly wanted to make the documentary with whatever footage they had, and Rosenthal pushed De Niro to make the documentary, as he had been planning to do for the past two years. De Niro Sr.'s works are being exhibited at the Julie Nester Gallery in Park City. De Niro said that he has always tried to feature his father’s art in his own works, like at his New York restaurant, the Tribeca Grill. "I asked him if he would let me hang some of his paintings there, and I thought for sure he's not gonna like that, but he actually went along with it," De Niro reportedly said. "He hung them himself. And then I asked him if he'd do the menu and he did the menu, which is still there… It will be there as long as the place exists."
“Remembering the Artist Robert De Niro Sr.” will make its television debut in June on HBO.
Unlike the New York abstract expressionists, De Niro Sr. was really a figurative painter -- and while he enjoyed great success when he started out, eventually when the New York art world went crazy for pop art in the '60s, De Niro Sr.'s work went out of fashion -- and he refused to conform. He moved to Paris for a time, but was eventually brought back to New York by his son, who admitted he helped him financially in his later years.
"I did this for him," De Niro told the crowd at the Yarrow Theater after the screening. "I wanted my younger kids -- who were born after he died -- to know what their grandfather did. I even kept his painting studio intact so they could see it."
Rosenthal explained that she pushed De Niro -- who'd always talked about making a doc about his father's work -- two years ago, knowing that many of his father's contemporaries in the art world -- who are featured in the film -- wouldn't live much longer. "Originally," admitted director Peltz, "Bob wanted to make the film just for his family. But then we realized it tells the story not just of Robert De Niro's Sr.'s work -- which is amazing -- but the entire art world of the time."
MORE about Robert De Niro, Sr. HERE