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Film Review: Dirty Hands

Written by Jeremy Fish   
Monday, 26 January 2009 07:06
Jeremy Fish reviews up this documentary on artist David Choe which has been in the making for the last 7 years.

So, I first met David Choe a few years ago for a project we had to do together in England. Dave had just been in jail in Japan for three months for violence, and had only been home a few weeks before agreeing to join us on the trip around the UK. Honestly, I really didn't like him very much at first. I felt he was an under talented over achiever with a huge chip on his shoulder, and a general lack of respect for anything and everything. Since that trip I have got to know and understand him a little bit more. and somehow, especially after watching his new film "dirty hands", I realized I was right about most of my first impressions, (all but the talent part) but in a strange way I had grown to love him for the same qualities that initially pushed me away. He is an acquired taste, like a weird cheese. But he is unique, amazing, and completely hyper driven, in a sea of contemporary "one trick pony" art dorks. David Choe is one of a kind, and I am now a huge fan.

"I felt he was an under talented over achiever with a huge chip on his shoulder"

The film, "dirty hands", was made by a dude named harry Kim. Harry is Dave's childhood friend, and fulltime travel companion. I think harry did a great job with this project. For 7 years harry followed Dave around with a camera. Sometimes he knows he is being filmed, and sometimes not. We get to see his natural reaction to amazing, scary, emotional, and super personal moments in the dude's life. Being an artist, for the most part, is about making art. For Dave, I think, it's only a piece of the recipe. For him there needs to be travel, struggle, adventure, hardship, sex, blood, crime, heartbreak, and of course, humor. Dave and the ups and downs in his life are as much a part of the artworks, as the canvas and paper he covers. He is dramatic, self indulgent, self destructive, and maybe slightly genius, in the way he embraces the world with each new adventure.

In dirty hands we watch a guy come from pretty much nothing to living out his dreams. A self-fulfilling prophecy, and he made it all happen, in his own methodical, yet crazy way. From a dude who nearly begged for little illustration gigs, to a 2.5 million dollar sold out art show in less than 10 years. And harry somehow managed to film most of the adventure it took to get there. This is a great film for other artists to watch. A reminder that without some struggle and pain in ones life, the work tends to reflect your boring ass life. It also shows that he has something else driving him, the devil on one shoulder and god on the other. His struggles, his addictions, his mistakes, his heartaches, some strikes, some gutters, and his amazing artworks, and some that aren't so amazing. And maybe that's what makes me enjoy him so much these days.

In a sea of talented visual artists, David Choe stands alone for me. There are a million people out there who make great images on canvas for us all to gawk at. He is not just a guy who can draw and paint some strange ladies, dogs, cityscapes, trucks, bikes, drums, and two headed girls, all with his own blood. More importantly, he is truly a work of art in and of himself. Who goes to the Congo trying to find a dinosaur when they could be home, comfortable, making art and building on a dream career? Only a man who finds boredom in comfort, and beauty in struggle. I came away from the film wondering what and when might make Dave happy. Part of me hopes he finds it someday, part of me hopes he never finds it, and the man boy adventures carry on and continue to entertain us all. Hats off to you Mr. Choe, I salute you and your efforts. I truly love when I am wrong about someone, and my first impression of them. An interesting dude, with a humble and fascinating background story. I give this film two thumbs up, and a must see for any young art dork trying to find their way in this mess. It inspired me to get off my ass and live a little more these days. Life is short, get out there and look for you personal dinosaur.

-Jeremy fish 1/09

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