Raquel Welch’s “I Hate Your Guts”
Black and Blue Gallery, 302/267-271 Cleveland St Redfern
Welch’s hatred towards Williams takes the unlikely form of twelve tapestries that currently adorn the walls of Redfern’s Black and Blue Gallery. Each depicts a character from one of William’s movies, with a passively aggressive descriptor sewn lovingly into the mix. “FUNNY MAN” screams one, depicting Williams cajoling his audience at a live stand-up gig. “TRANSVESTITE” accuses another, in which Williams wears the tranny-granny garb of Mrs Doubtfire.
Welch feels she is exposing the true unfunniness behind the “comedic shtick (the wild gestures, the rapid fire one-liners) designed to bamboozle the audience into thinking [Williams is] funny”. The ‘funny man’ himself is revealed to be as kitsch and two-dimensional as the tapestries themselves, but hewn together more roughly to create a persona that is part-comedic fraud, part-terrifying clown.
Welch does not shrink back from entertaining malicious thoughts about Williams either. Indeed she sees her work as cathartic – as a form of ‘anger management’. But she does hope that her audience, no matter how much they may also loathe Williams, will refrain from taking out their own anger on her works. In the exhibition invitation, which I read before entering the gallery, Welch wisely warned against “smashing glasses against Robin Williams’ ugly mug, no matter how angry he may make you (or how much you think he deserves it)”. This was wise, for as the night wore on and more and more wine was consumed it was evident that many others in the gallery felt a raging animosity towards the actor. “He’s a cockhead”, I heard one patron behind me say, while another, her face screwed up as she considered the quilted portrait before her, summed up Welch’s feelings perfectly: “He thinks he’s funny but he’s not!”
But the wine seemed to be causing my senses to fray. As I wandered throughout the gallery, taking it all in, I wondered: do I, like Welch, hate Williams’ guts? Is there, inside of me, such a passionate rage towards this Oscar-winning actor that I also wanted to commit a character assassination, however artistically? Sure, Patch Adams was so cheesy that the Heart Foundation needed to slap a cholesterol warning on it, but, dare I say it, I quite liked his performance in The Bird Cage.
Forgive me, Raquel, for I fear your needlepoint wrath!
You will love this if: You like aggressive and well-made tapestry art. Or you just hate Robin Williams.
You will hate this if: You think that Patch Adams is the greatest movie ever made and that Williams is a comic genius.
Check it out July 3rd – 18th, 2009