It is currently -6° F in Minneapolis right now and going to hit -26° by midnight (-50 windchill. Which begs the question: why do I live here?). School is cancelled tomorrow and I suspect a lot of offices will be closed.
I recently spent a Sunday watching art and design documentaries and thought all my snow- and cold-bound people might might dig ’em. A much better way to kill an afternoon than frostbite. Here’s what I watched:
Gerhard Richter Painting
(2011, 87 minutes)
I have been evangelizing this movie hard since watching it. Even if you’re not a fan of the German master’s work you need to check it out for a visual blueprint of how to be a professional. Richter was 78 when this was made and a couple of things are clear: he works harder than you, he takes his work more seriously than you do, and he understands that the point of a livelihood is to do the work for its own sake not for fame or money.
The movie is shot as Richter battles a handful of large abstract canvasses for an upcoming show and its a special experience to watch his methodical and patient approach to painting.
I was inspired to write this after viewing.
Watch online: Netflix
Charles & Ray Eames: The Architect & The Painter
(2011, 85 minutes)
The Eames are like air. Or Picasso. Its easy to forget just how much they did and achieved because you take them for granted (or I do, at least). This American Masters documentary paints a broad picture of how they worked, the attribution and credit controversies, and their personal issues (without scandalizing). Watch this and see if you’re not immediately thinking about making a movie from some random stuff in your house.
Watch online: PBS.
How To Make A Book With Steidl
(2010, 88 minutes)
A fascinating look at the life and times of Gerhard Steidl, the man behind German photo-book publisher Steidl. He’s a manic ball of energy and the filmmakers follow him around the globe for proofing and check-ins with Ed Ruscha, Jeff Wall, Helmut Lang, Robert Frank and others. Actually, that sounds sexier than it is. Steidl hates travel but believes in face-to-face communication so he packs multiple bi-coastal meetings into a weekend so he can be back in Germany for months straight.
It can seem like he does everything the hard way but Steidl is one of the most successful art book publishers in the world and provides a lesson worth remembering—pursue projects you believe in and do them right. Not conveniently, not cost-efficiently but right. Watching this movie I was reminded of Ian Mackaye and Dischord Records—the counter-intuitive and the difficult are often rewarded by markets.
Make sure you watch the bonus footage for a discussion of my favorite typeface of all time—Akzidenz Grotesk and a very transparent interview about the publishing industry.
Watch online: Netflix
If you’ve got any good recommendations for art documentaries, leave them in the comments.
Namdev Hardisty is designer, educator, writer and co-founder of The MVA Studio in Minneapolis.