By Chad Nance
The Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art (SECCA), located at 750 Marguerite Drive, will be screening Taxi Driver on Feb. 7 at 7pm as part of the Artist’s Choice Film Series. This film was chosen by North Carolina artist Frank Selby who feels it was influential in developing his artist perspective. Selby’s work is on view at SECCA in Frank Selby: Misunderstanding.
Selby’s show closes on Feb. 17 and if you have not taken the opportunity, it is one collection that truly must be viewed in a museum or gallery setting. The meticulous detail, the almost journalistic objectivity, and the stored energy in Salisbury artist Selby’s images bring to mind the work of cinematographer Raoul Coutard’s work with Costa-Gravas on Z , Haskell Wexler’s work on Medium Cool, and the lush images that Michael Chapman created for Taxi Driver.
This could be because of Selby’s chosen subject matter. The most dynamic and evocative pieces in Misunderstanding are “Double Riot” and “Light Blue Riot” both of which were created from news photographs documenting the 1968 riots in France that began as student strikes then led to an almost complete shutdown of the country and President Charles De Gaulle to flee to Germany. Selby’s work takes on even more poignancy when one reflects on the fact that those riots and strikes were a complete failure for the students and the unions. De Gaulle returned to France and in elections following the ’68 street battles emerged from the fray more politically entrenched than ever. Selby journalisticly tells the viewers of his work this narrative with his piece “Progaulist” which shows De Gualle and his followers in a parade dominated by the Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile.
Shelby’s artistry and craft is evident in these meticulous works created with graphite on paper laid over the original photographs. His use of iconography is thoughtful and Selby’s 21st Century sensibility brings an immediacy and veracity to his work that cannot be denied. The strongest piece in the show is “Chechen” which was created from a video still taken in of a rebel fighter in Chechnya. The sense of movement and kinetic energy in this piece brings Selby’s craft to the fore. He has a comic book artist’s eye (In fact “Chechen” particularly brings to mind the work of Marvel Comics Bryan Hitch.)
The choice of Taxi Driver for the Feb. 7th screening is an apt one. Paul Schrader and Martin Scorsese’s impressionistic nightmare is not only now a bench mark of 1970’s American malaise it is timely examination of the self-deceit, contradictions, and underlying violence of American culture that leads individuals to lash out in spectacularly bloody and in the end depressing ways. Schrader’s ending has a special resonance in the 21st Century reality of Sandyhook and Jared Loughner where the villains are lashed up high as media icons so that the rest of us might have at them ourselves in seemingly endless cycles of self-flagellation and self-righteousness.
Taxi Driver and Misunderstanding share a penchant for apocalyptic iconography and violent action while offering up a personal and sometimes claustrophobic subjective point of view. “Progaulist” and Taxi Driver certainly share an outsider’s view of politics where the political and the street world are operating under a total and complete disconnect. The upper economic and political classes seem fascinated with the plight and the blight in the end that fascination amounts to no more than a prurient, almost adolescent distraction.
The Taxi Driver screening is $5.00 and will take place at 7pm on Thursday February 7th. Get there early so that you can spend some time with Frank Selby’s Misunderstandings then join in what is bound to be one of the most interesting conversations in Winston-Salem this week.