Brooklyn artist Zefrey Throwell loves movies and he loves diagrams. Inspired by infographics he discovered in an old NYPD detective manual, Zefrey has now combined both passions by silk-screening cryptic love letters to his favorite motion pictures. For the new show Plotting running through May 2 at Manhattan’s Garis & Hahn gallery, Throwell says “I stripped down classic films and made them into puzzles for the audience to solve. The whole thing is designed around the idea that when you see a movie, the real film happens inside your mind.”
Throwell decided to condense movie plots into graphic text snippets after buying a second-hand NYPD detective manual at the Strand bookstore. “I’m obsessed with diagrams so I started flipping through this NYPD detective manual the police department passed out in the late seventies,” he recalls. “One of the diagrams showed rookie detectives how to quantify and identify sexual deviance. Looking at this diagram now, it’s insane to see how much our culture has changed.”
Throwell transformed the diagram into a dartboard and recruited “two dominatrices and a submissive,” he explains. “We made a fetish film based on throwing darts at this old sexual deviance wheel. It turned out to be both hilarious and kinky.”
As follow-up to the S&M experiment, Throwell says he contemplated making an entire series of dartboard-activated movies. “But then I asked myself ‘Do we really need the film?’ The beautiful part is the diagram.”
Throwell’s Plotting exhibit includes painterly interpretations of Blade Runner, Casablanca, North by Northwest, Italian neo-realist classic Mamma Roma, Network and Lost in Translation. Throwell envisions the series as a guessing game of sorts, noting that his Raging Bull homage is often misinterpreted as On the Waterfront. He summarized Annie Hall in his Movie 9 painting as “The full arc of love from tennis on the pier to Sunset Boulevard and back to West 63rd, her bubbling vim, his blitzing neurosis, oh max, la-di-dah, la-di-dah.”
Raised in Alaska by a hippie mother, Throwell began cultivating an off-kilter art-making sensibility at age 18 when he ran off to Brazil and spent a year in Sao Paulo, surrounded by riots, free-form traffic jams, museum fires, and World Cup soccer delirium. “I almost lost my mind,” Throwell laughs.
After living on the West Coast, Throwell moved seven years ago to New York. When he’s not painting, making films, orchestrating strip poker happenings or 1,000-car horn symphonies, Throwell can likely be found at the local movie house. “One of my favorite things is going to the movies, but its essentially a passive affair,” he says. “People come out of the theater, maybe chat about the movie for 20 minutes, then poof, it’s over. In this show, I’m providing the basic elements and the audience fills in the rest with their imagination.”