Make Me Famous screens at Betha DocHouse on Fri 17th Feb 2023, followed by a filmmaker Q&A.
Who was Edward Brezinski? It’s a good question; after all, his name does not immediately come to mind when talking about the Lower East Side art scene of New York during the 1980s. If I were to ask you which artists point to the rebellious, queer, outcast profile of New York’s art scene from the late 70s, you would undoubtedly list names such as Keith Haring, David Wojnarowicz, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Robert Mapplethorpe and Jeff Koons. However, among these names was a painter named Edward Brezinski. Yet, like many artists, Brezinski never found the recognition or fame he desired. Instead, he faded into the background as the art scene became financially driven, his expressionist work largely sidelined and ignored until now.
But what makes Edward Brezinski so interesting? Was it his rebellious consumption of a preserved doughnut exhibited by Robert Gober? Or maybe it was his strange death in a Cannes hotel that led many to speculate he was, in fact, still alive. While these stories are fascinating, the interest lies within an ever-changing art scene and a talent that never made it to the dizzy heights of the art world. It’s the story of an artist who tried and tried again but never captured the zeitgeist of the time – his work only hung in the prestigious MoMA galleries long after his death in 2007. In other words, it is the story of so many artists who fail to find the fame they seek, no matter their talent.
Director Brian Vincent’s portrait of Brezinski is wrapped in the celebrated New York art scene of the time. Here we are provided with home videos shot at Brezinski’s derelict Lower East Side apartment as we explore the very nature of artistic fame. Unlike many previous documentaries, this allows Make Me Famous to celebrate the famed 80s art scene of New York while dissecting its destructive influence on the individual as some rose to the top, only for others to be left in the dirt.
Crammed with interviews, videos and discussions, we are offered a dizzying tour through the 80s queer art scene, taking us from the late 70s to the devastating outbreak of AIDS and beyond. But, at all times, Vincent ensures Brezinski sits centre stage in Make Me Famous, as we are asked to reconsider his artistic impact and his role in creating the 80s art scene that ultimately shunned him.
Make Me Famous is a melancholic yet vibrant exploration of a man who never gave up on his dream but was never taken seriously by his peers. Brezinski would find solace in alcohol and paint as he continually attempted to find the missing piece to his artistic jigsaw, even travelling to Berlin in the early 90s. But, that missing piece of the jigsaw was to escape him until his apparent death in France. Interviews with artists and art dealers ranging from Walter Robinson to Annina Nosei and Sur Rodney Sur talk of his charisma, presence and grit while equally discussing how his work didn’t fit the time. There remains a sense of snobbery and cruelty in many of their words in an art scene embedded in big money, instant judgement, and failure.
So to return to my original question, who was Edward Brezinski? The answer is complicated; he was a talented artist who never received the attention he deserved. But he was also a mysterious figure who drank too much and could be volatile. However, more than anything, he was an artist with a dream who didn’t have the ruthless business credentials to make it big, and sadly that’s why so few of us have heard of him.
United States | 1hr 33mins | 2022
Director Brian Vincent’s portrait of Brezinski is wrapped in the celebrated New York art scene of the time, providing us with home videos shot at Brezinski’s derelict East-side apartment while exploring the very nature of artistic fame.