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My Kid Could Paint That

A layered art-world exploitation
By ALICIA POTTER  |  October 10, 2007
3.0 3.0 Stars

VIDEO: Watch the trailer for My Kid Could Paint That.

Marla Olmstead, the subject of Amir Bar-Lev’s absorbing documentary, at once reveals an artist’s temperament: dark moods, fits of inspiration, a reticence to discuss her work. Marla is four years old — yet her precociously accomplished abstract paintings (Ode to Pollock, Lollipop) have garnered worldwide acclaim and mega-sales. With quick strokes, Bar-Lev establishes the players: the wary mom, the gung-ho dad, the skeezy gallery owner who sees dollar signs in Marla’s drips. At first, the film plays like an art-world Gypsy; clouds gather when 60 Minutes comes tick-tick-ticking around and concludes that an adult manipulated Marla’s best efforts. Although his conclusion doesn’t fully satisfy, Bar-Lev connects several provocative ideas, from the critical value of Abstract Expressionism and our fickle preoccupation with prodigies to his own conflicted role in Marla’s exploitation. Only the kid’s chaotic canvases are more layered.
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  Topics: Reviews , Painting, Visual Arts, Amir Bar-Lev
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