Appellate Judge James A. Stewart's paper clip sculptures are featured in Tuileries Gardens.
"Everything I have to say is in my sculptures. I am stunned that you don't see it."—Mark di Suvero
There are a few moments in North Star: Mark di Suvero when his outdoor metal sculptures look positively scary. The camera makes whatever people are in the background small and insignificant, there's a Philip Glass score, and the metalwork shoots out at odd angles. The effect is rather stark.
By today's standards, di Suvero's sculptures aren't that frightening. Even if I don't get every nuance di Suvero meant to convey, I've seen enough outdoor art to know these are more comforting than intimidating. In the '70s, that wasn't the case. Doris Freedman, who led the Public Arts Council, is seen lamenting that people were more likely to ask "What is it?" than appreciate it. "They have no idea what contemporary avant-garde is," she says.
Outdoor sculpture is still part of today's avant-garde, and di Suvero was at its forefront. His creations were shown in 1975 at the Tuileries Gardens, making him the first sculptor to be featured in the Louvre's outdoor showplace in his own lifetime. North Star shows numerous di Suvero sculptures, the camera constantly on the move to capture all angles. It also shows di Suvero moving among the beams as he creates his work.
North Star doesn't just feature the work, it also covers di Suvero's life. The artist was once told "there was an eighty percent chance that I would never walk around again," following an elevator accident that crushed his legs. There's a note of anger in his voice, years later, as he talks about the accident that left him partially paralyzed. Di Suvero left the United States during the Vietnam War, considering the "military industrialists" to be "unpatriotic."
Director Francois de Menil contrasts the personal with the professional by showcasing his creations and the artist at work in color, while interviews and other footage are in black-and-white. Presented in standard definition 1.33:1 full frame, North Star shows its age, with color fading and source damage. The Dolby 2.0 Mono track is adequate for what it's conveying. Aside from a short bio on inside of the DVD cover, there are no extras.
Given the passage of time since this was filmed, it's interesting that di Suvero speculates on how young people who see his sculptures will think of them decades later. North Star is an interesting documentary that drew me in, even though I was unfamiliar with di Suvero or his work. Still, it will be most compelling to viewers with a special interest in di Suvero or the avant-garde era of outdoor sculpture.
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