DUMBO artist couple explored in new documentary

‘Cutie and the Boxer’ to open Aug. 16

August 14, 2013 By Samantha Samel Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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Opening this Friday, Aug. 16, “Cutie and the Boxer”, a documentary by Brooklyn-based filmmaker Zachary Heinzerling, intimately follows the love story of Brooklyn-based artists Ushio and Noriko Shinohara. The film examines the couple’s workspace in DUMBO, a space they have also called home for nearly 27 years, observing the neighborhood undergo extensive change throughout their residence. “Cutie and the Boxer” paints a comprehensive portrait of Ushio’s and Noriko’s relationship, revealing that their love has ultimately triumphed over ongoing bouts resentment and disenchantment. 

Heinzerling’s film begins in Brooklyn, where Ushio and Noriko are scraping to get by. The film chronicles each artist’s distinct beginnings, as well as the foundation of their relationship. Ushio became infamous in postwar Japan for his avant-garde “boxing” paintings, after which he moved to New York City in 1969, hoping to gain international fame. In 1972, at just 19, Noriko came from Japan to New York to pursue her studies as an artist. Upon meeting Ushio, who was then middle-aged and an unruly alcoholic, she cut ties with her wealthy family and abandoned her education to marry him. A year after they wed, Noriko gave birth to their only son, Alex.  

Now, having been married for 40 years, Ushio and Noriko are in distinct places but are inextricably intertwined.  Ushio, at 80, is still extremely active as a painter and sculptor. But despite his early success, he now struggles to achieve recognition; his recent show was poorly received, selling no work.

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Noriko, on the other hand, now nearly 60, has revived her passion for art through her illustration series titled “Cutie.” Having more time to herself with a fully grown son and now-sober husband, Noriko has employed “Cutie” as an outlet for humorously depicting her complicated history with Ushio. She has managed to channel the adverse aspects of her life into a collection of paintings and drawings that evoke intimacy and female power.

The film leads to a unique exhibition that offers both artists the opportunity to showcase their new work. Ushio and Noriko prepare both together and independently to present their art to the public.

Interspersing present-day footage with archival scenes and images of the artists’ work, “Cutie and the Boxer” brings to life the Brooklyn couple’s unique love story. The documentary reveals that while dissimilar personalities and artistic visions will of course create disruptive tension, they simultaneously can form the basis of a deeply rewarding relationship that is propelled by creativity.

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The film opens on Friday, August 16 at the Lincoln Plaza Cinema (1886 Broadway, near W. 63rd St. in Manhattan) and Landmark Sunshine Cinema (143 E Houston St., between Eldridge St. and Forsyth St. in Manhattan). A national rollout will follow.

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