Tom Rhoads | Three Films
Tuesday, March 26, 7 PM
Filmmaker in attendance
512 West 19th Street
New York, NY 10011
Green, Super 8, 30 min., 1988
Mr. Wonderful, Super 8, 10 min., 1988
Warm Broth, Super 8, 36 min., 1987/88
Tom Rhoads is dead. Long live Luther Price. Before making his infamous film Sodom (1989), Price invented different personas, living these roles in order to execute a breadth of artistic projects. Tom Rhoads marked his first foray into filmmaking. An infantile psyche in the body of an adult, Rhoads was the vessel for some of the artist's most introspective and psychodramatic films. Working in Super 8, Rhoads' projects are visceral explorations of trauma, "home movies from hell," repetitive explosions of personal memory and familial guilt. "A nice guy," Price describes Rhoads as the kind of man, "who would buy you an ice cream cone."
Green begins with a close-up shot of a dead starling to the warbling strains of "Let There Be Love," before Rhoads appears, scary and deathly in an orange wig and green gown, an ice cream cone slowly melting in his hand. As Gary Morris writes, Green finds the filmmaker "in one of his most bizarre and powerful guises," in an image "at once campy and shocking and poignant." A psychodramatic film trapped somewhere between the trance films, which make up the earliest contributions to the American avant-garde (Meshes of the Afternoon, Fragment of Seeking or Fireworks) and the mid-Eighties Boston super 8 aesthetic found in the films of Saul Levine or Mark Morrisroe, the film is an incantation for the filmmaker, whose aunt Sally committed suicide the day he was born, causing him to believe that he is her reincarnation. And so Green ruminates on ideas of mortality and femininity, suicide and rebirth in images of drag figures and silver angels, overdoses and pimply youths.
In Mr. Wonderful a scratched close-up of an LP portrait of a goofy Fred Rogers is matched with selections from the record. The effect is less ironic than defamiliarizing. At one point, Mr. Rogers sings a song suggesting that childish clowning is a way of warding off fear.
Already recognized as a classic of experimental cinema, Warm Broth existed in two versions and took nearly two years for the artist to complete. A penetrating glance into queer childhood, the filmmaker appears here as both the young Tom Rhoads and his mother (known as CUNT). Corroded images of childhood objects like stuffed animals, poppets and fudge bars collide with CUNT who goes shopping, hangs clothes on the line and lingers, ominously. The soundtrack is comprised solely of the insistent repetitions of a pull string doll: "Tell me a secret! Give me a kiss! I like flowers!"
Tom Rhoads produced 18 psychologically searing Super 8 works in a mere two years, between 1987 and 1989. Rhoads was the first filmmaker persona of Luther Price, whose sculptural and performative practices took included the additional alter-egos Fag, Brick, LA, Laija Brie, and Brigk Aethy. Tom Rhoads committed suicide via candy overdose in a public performance in 1989, giving birth to Luther Price.
Luther Price received a BFA in Sculpture and Media/Performing Arts from Massachusetts College of Art and Design, where he studied with Saul Levine. He is an experimental filmmaker whose work has been widely screened in and exhibited throughout the United States and Europe at such venues as the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the San Francisco Cinematheque. Shifting from original super 8 source material to 16mm found footage in the early 2000s, Price effected a shift in his practice which found the artist exhibiting slides and films to great acclaim at the 2012 Whitney Biennial. His early films often incorporate controversial subject matter, featuring the artist, performing in a variety of personas, while the more recent, 16mm film works have tended to test the physical threshold of celluloid, marring, painting and even burying reels as a means to corrode the surface materiality of film. Price is a professor at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design and is represented by Callicoon Fine Arts, NYC.