Big and bold, yet refined and precise–these are the hallmarks of Robert Williams, the breakthrough painter whose works shifted the direction of contemporary art. Monday’s movie, Robert Williams, Mr Bitchin takes us through the painter’s life, with stops along the way to (re) discover the Piltdown Man, King Farouk, hot rods, hippies, sexy women, censorship and the origins of the universe.
Growing up on his family’s ranch, Williams had an idyllic childhood, except he didn’t like driving cattle or riding horses, or the conservative upbringing that stifled his rebellious spirit. When his parents divorced, he and his mom were nearly homeless in New Mexico, and his mom left him in the care of a female lieutenant in the Air Force and the lieutenant’s girlfriend. Williams was exposed to a more liberal lifestyle, and when the time came, he moved to Los Angeles to study art.
Robert Williams Mr Bitchin takes us on a trip through the artist’s life and through America’s changing subcultures, exploring how Williams’ work both reflects and changed culture. Musicians like jazz genius Artie Shaw and rock ‘n’ rollers Axl Rose and Blondie weigh in on Williams’ talent and the controversies he created, while Williams’ wife, artist Suzanne Williams, reveals an inspirational, grounding force.
This is a smart documentary about one the greatest living American painters and thinkers, and we hope you’ll join producer/co-director Nancye Ferguson and director Mary Reese on the front page of Firedoglake.com Monday at 5pm to discuss Williams, his work, and the film Robert Williams, Mr Bitchin.