Work of Art: Next Great Artist (Bravo) – Episode 1-7 Review

Work of Art: Next Great Artist

Episode 7

THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN

Erik was gone: a new era awoke.

Last week’s messy departure of Erik seemed to trigger interpersonal stirrings that Work of Art: NGA desperately needed. Miles’ overt condescension ran afoul of his quiet, faux-naivety. This has created the first real social pivot for the show, wherein one can choose to align with Miles due to his clear acumen or distrust and dislike him based on a perceived flakiness of integrity. Most importantly it gives the contestants dilemma. Through conflict we are exposed to deeper, more complete version of the people on the show. Conflict and competition still rile the “real” from the contrived terrarium of “reality television”. Unfortunately, up to this point Work of Art:NGA has been rather light on discord and complexity, but the post-Erik group already appear to be shaping into more interesting characters. If we’re not going to see any good art, we might as well get to see some good reality television.

The post-Erik group is also noticeably concise as last week signified the halfway mark of the season. Of the 14 contestants, seven have been eliminated and seven remain.

Episode seven was chockfull of personal nuance that lent to understanding the contestants as people, or at least as characters on a show that you might find interesting. Keeping in step with our more intimate vantage, episode seven’s challenge was the first to really ask the artists to discuss and communicate themselves as people.

The Magnificent Seven (Abdi, Nicole, Jaclyn, Mark, Peregiune, Miles, and Ryan), were brought by Simon de Pury (via subway!) to The Children’s Museum of the Arts in SoHo. There it was revealed that their challenge was to “Create a piece inspired by the experiences that made you an artist.” What a wide-open and glorious assignment. The challenges to date have all been about the other; a stimulant outside the self- books, electronics, cars, the public, the other contestants. The minor catch of this self-derived work was the limiting of available materials to that of the children’s craft supplies at the museum. With the subject being the self, it would figure that the participants should all be experts. But when you ask densely realistic-minded artists (Mark, Abdi, Ryan) to convey an emotion or experience, they tend to illustrate it instead.

This week’s guest judge was painter Will Cotton. Cotton was chosen because his own work deals with candy and sweets that are often associated with youthful desire and impulse. Given the task, Cotton was a clever choice and suitable judge who was YET AGAIN given a neglectful introduction! Cotton was described as a New York City based painter while a slideshow of three of his images briefly clicked through. If this show is to help inform the general television audience on the art world, it’d be good to talk up the guests a bit more. Why not introduce him as “Will Cotton, recipient of the 2004 Princess Grace Foundation Award, Cotton has exhibited extensively throughout the United States and Europe including the San Francisco Museum of Art and the Seattle Art Museum. Represented by Mary Boone Gallery, Cotton’s is work is owned by museums as well as many prominent private collections.” While you’re at it, show a few more examples of his work, it wouldn’t kill ya. For all the powerful allusions of the aristocratic art world, the show startlingly lacks gravitas (save, Simon). It must start from the top down, and making “your” celebrities sound like they are big deals is step one.

Nicole and Pereguine came out of crit unscathed, and for the first time we had an all female winner’s circle. The first four episodes were won by the boys, but Nicole v Pereguine insures a third straight victory for the ladies. Nicole sandwiched all sorts of memory inducing objects between Styrofoam trays and hung them (somewhat like horizontal blinds) from a wall mounted apparatus. The resulting sculpture was vaguely familiar, but remained elusive. Pereguine really stepped in shit. Constructing a tabletop menagerie of candy and cigarettes in children-supplies-Technicolor, the piece looked like something Will Cotton might have made himself. Not only was it a well-made and thought provoking, it happened to be right in Will’s wheelhouse. Pereguine won, but as Simon pointed out during his studio visit, the winner will no longer get immunity. Winning now has no consequence, no prize or anything. It doesn’t make any sense.

Ryan, Jaclyn, and Abdi were singled out for their lack of achievement, although Mark deserved to be there as much as anyone. Asked to embody an early memory of artistic inclination, Mark made a children’s book about himself. It was hokey, mawkish craft. How things like this escape the judges is beyond me. Jaclyn was severely hamstrung in that she was born without a heart. Her icy-cold analytical tree of youth made Miles “want to put on a coat”. Abdi created a series of particularly boring drawings that actually stemmed from a rather interesting conceptual base. Abdi tried to render all the things classmates used to ask him to create. Many artists start out this way. Showing a particular faculty for replication, young artist are often asked to create upon demand for others. But given the show’s constraints on time for conceptualization and execution, another good idea was pressure cooked into a disfigured gesture. Instead showing a budding artist through the eyes of his community, it came across as commercial-grade illustration. Both Abdi and Jaclyn’s work was still better than Mark’s, unfortunately for Ryan, his piece was not. To overcome his prodigious skills (I suppose), Ryan, a righty, decided to draw left-handed. The result looked like work made by a child, rather than something inspired by a formative experience, and Ryan was asked to leave the show.

This was the best challenge thus far. Asking artists to create something that relates to themselves (you reflecting upon yourself), emotions and remembrances surface. The filters of memory often snag at peculiar angles. These facets can correlate neatly or stand in direct contradiction; either way there effect is the same. They elucidate the varied influences and gradation of humanity. Through this exercise we learned that Pereguine grew up on an art commune. That Nicole has a twin sister. That Mark comes from a background nearly bereft of traditional art resources and trappings. That beneath Jaclyn’s icy exterior there lay an un-friended little girl, eating her lunch alone in the bathroom. And that Ryan was raised a Jehovah’s Witness: a setting so stern that he now considers himself disowned by his mother. While knowing that fact about Ryan doesn’t make his piece any better or more relatable, I might be allowed to insinuate a relation between the rigidity of his upbringing to the narrowness of his artistic practice. And that’s good tv.

HIGHLIGHTS

Ryan, on Miles, “I didn’t really notice it until very recently, but Miles is kinda like this big douchebag.”

China Chow’s crit dress- think something between a mummy wrapped in yellow gold and the Guggenheim painted canary.

J Diddy, on Abdi’s drawings, “A dictionary is more interesting than that piece.”

Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn’s excuse for not being on this week’s show, delivered by China Chow, “Jeanne is away this week curating a show in Europe.”

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