He’s drunk, he’s high, he’s mournful, he’s masochistic and he makes great art. It could be a lot of painters throughout art history and now, according to HBO, which is premiering director Jeff Stimmel’s 63-minute-long documentary The Art of Failure, it’s Chuck Connelly. What this film unintentionally reveals is that, contrary to cliché, Connelly is not an oil-based genius because he is psychotically living through constant pain; he is in pain precisely because making arresting images in paint is so easy for him. When Chuck is out of the studio, everything else is difficult.

In rather conventional “art brut” passages, we see Chuck alienate his wife, hire a doppelganger to pretend he is Chuck, fill his living room with his naked lesbian series, smoke joints, visit Warhol’s grave, and generally act out like a vicious Chucklehead. Intermittently, Connelly grins with idiotic sweetness. Then, mirabile dictu, we see Chuck turn out a toadlike green self-portrait, a masterpiece, in 50 seconds, with sympathetic play-by-play commentary from Artnet Magazine’s own Walter Robinson.

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