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Agnes Martin: With My Back to the World / Kiki Smith: Squatting the Palace (Unrated)





Release Date: January 10th, 2007 (Film Forum)
Agnes Martin is directed by Mary Lance.
Kiki Smith is directed by Vivien Bittencourt and Vincent Katz.

BASIC PREMISE: Two documentaries, one about Agnes Martin, a reclusive painter and another about artist Kiki Smith who prepares for 8-room exhibit at the Renaissance palace in Venice.

ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: Both Agnes Martin: With My Back to the World and Kiki Smith: Squatting the Palace provide a brief glimpse into the mind of an artist. Agnes Martin, at a running time of 57 minutes, succeeds the most with more interviews rather than merely showing the artist at work. Director Mary Lance follows 90- year-old Agnes Martin, who died in 2004, as she paints her seemly simple, geometric paintings. Agnes accurately measures all of the proportions onto a detailed blue print before painting. In a fascinating part of the interview, Agnes states that painting allows her to shun everything else in the world and create her own reality based on her imagination. She claims to wait for something that inspires her to paint onto a large canvas, but itís not quite clear what specifically inspires her. More information about why she decided to spend her life in solitude would have been interesting as well as how she struggles to make ends meet. Kiki Smith: Squatting the Palace, at a running time of 45 minutes, is, primarily, a behind-the-scenes look at how Kiki Smith and her assistants prepare for a 8-room exhibit displaying her creative talent for designing furniture, creating sculptures and drawing. Kiki is clearly a collaborative, more outgoing artist unlike Agnes who prefers to work alone. Kiki claims that the exhibit allows her demonstrate her passion for domestic art where every room expresses her artistic tastes. Co-directors Vivien Bittencourt and Vincent Katz should have included more interviews to make the film more engaging and it would have been helpful for Kiki to explain her relationship with her assistants and how she selected them in the first place. Of these two documentaries, Agnes Martin is the more interesting and memorable one.

SPIRITUAL VALUE: Whether in seclusion, like Agnes Martin, or in collaboration, like Kiki Smith, artists have their own method which they use to express themselves. Artists not only need to find inspirations to work, but also spend a lot of time meticulously planning and designing each artwork. When they finish working, some, like Agnes, relax while they wait for their next inspiration which is difficult to predict. Itís quite inspiring to watch Agnes and Kiki do what they love and love what they do.

INSULT TO YOUR INTELLIGENCE: Not enough interviews with Kiki in Kiki Smith: Squatting the Palace.

NUMBER OF TIMES I CHECKED MY WATCH: 3

IN A NUTSHELL: Mildly fascinating and somewhat inspirational, but not profound or provocative enough.

RECOMMENDED WAY TO WATCH: DVD


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