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Viggo Mortensen, left, and Mahershala Ali in Green Book
Linda Cardellini and Viggo Mortensen in Green Book
and Bob Branaman; and Reiner too cites his early experiences there as formative. “My favorite thing about Beyond Baroque,” Reiner tells us, “has been the exposure over the years there to poets, film screenings, musical events that were unique because of the entirely personal way that content is presented there. I remember Tosh Berman screening Joseph Cornell’s films and Bres- son’s Au Hasard Balthazar. Mind-blowing to see for the first time! Richard Hell reading poems to a room of 12 people, incredibly memorable. A lively symposium about the Black Panthers before Boyz N the Hood was released. Malokio playing incredible noise music at a memorial for Laurence Weinberg. There were so many events that I witnessed at Beyond Baroque that were always connected to a person or people and their process, not just product.”
The current administrators of Beyond Baroque see the occasion of its 50th anni- versary as not just an occasion to celebrate but a chance to bring back old friends and family, and to diversify the base of support so it can go another 50 years. To that end, the Beyond Gala: Bohemian Bacchanal is an open house, to bring L.A. to the theater, the gallery, the grounds, to experience the range of musical and performative artistry — along with a curated art auction orga- nized by Juri Koll and Andrew Schwartz of-
Beyond Baroque’s Venice home
fering works by Ed Ruscha, Shepard Fairey, Raymond Pettibon and others.
Beyond Baroque director Richard Modi- ano credits Mortensen with “critical support in sustaining us, in 2010, when I was faced with reorganizing the center at a time when revenue was lower than ever before.” Modi- ano says. “Many funding sources had dried up and I reached out to Viggo for help — which came immediately. To me Viggo is a
“To me viggo is a poeT foremosT — i know his work from The days of cafe iguana and The onyx cafe.”
– richard modiano, director, beyond baroque
poet foremost — I know his work from the days of Cafe Iguana and the Onyx Cafe; and of course he polished his poetry chops in the Wednesday Night Poetry Workshops.”
Mortensen is still writing, maybe more than ever. “All the time,” he says. “In recent years I have been living mostly in Spain, so I’ve been writing and doing readings in
Spanish over there.” He has a new collection of poem, Lo que no se puede escribir (What Can’t Be Written), going to print shortly. And he’s still making art and taking photographs, drawing and recently making quite a few paintings. At the start of 2019 there will be another book published that includes many of those. He’s even had some conversations with galleries and museums about showing photography in Europe next year.
I had first encountered Viggo and his art in the context of some exhibitions and related publications, at Track 16 Gallery in Santa Monica and at Stephen Cohen Gallery in West Hollywood. In both cases, one partic- ular aspect of his process that stood out in our conversations was his habit of bringing a camera everywhere — including to set and especially on location. The weirder the better; he observed it all in stride, behav- ing as an interpretive documentarian, often with extraordinary and exotic, evocative, surreal experiences, people, scenes and settings to portray. From epic and ghostly desert landscapes that happened during Hidalgo to quick and dirty self-portraits in the driveway of a printer’s gallery for a show I was curating called “Looking Glass” at Digital Fusion back in 2012, Mortensen moves through the world always ready, and always paying attention to the details.
Lately, he’s repaired his analog cameras and
Scott Kurashige reads on Beyond Baroque’s back patio.
Photos by Patti Perret/© 2018 Focus Features & universal studios
has gone back to shooting film. “Nothing against digital photography,” he says, “but I love those old cameras, and I love film. I took some photos during the Green Book shoot, but not that many. We were too busy filming that story’s road trip for me to stop and take pictures on a regular basis. But I have been shooting a lot of landscapes lately. When I am in a new city, I always try to sneak away from my press duties to see art exhibitions. But when I can’t manage to do that, I’m happy just taking in the landscapes I’m lucky to see on our journeys.”
Green Book is indeed a road-trip movie, set all through the American South, based on the true story of Tony Vallelonga’s and jazz legend Don Shirley’s friendship. Dr. Shirley hired Tony (aka Lip) to drive him and act as his bodyguard on a tour of the Deep South for The Don Shirley Trio. Tony’s son Nick Vallelonga is one of the writers and producers of the film; he grew up knowing the men and their story. The Negro Motorist Green Book for which the film is named was originally a New York–area travel guide, disseminating essential information on safe places to stay, eat and even safer routes to take, published from 1937 until 1966.
So aside from the overall intrigue of such a compelling true story, and the chance to work with the radiant Mahershala Ali, what was it that most attracted Mortensen to the project?
“It is one of the finest original screenplays
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