Work of Art: The Next Great Artist (Bravo) Episode 1-10 Finale Review

Work of Art: The Next Great Artist

Season 1 Finale

Miles to go before we sleep.

The season 1 finale of Bravo’s Work of Art: The Next Great Artist was all that one could hope for. Good concept, strong performances, with a surprise finish.

The concept, or challenge parameters, gave each of the remaining artists, Abdi, Miles, and Peregrine, 3 months to work and $5000 dollars towards fabrication. The final show was to be held in the spacious Phillips de Pury Gallery which afforded each artist a sizable, multi-roomed exhibition space. This is what we’ve waited for. Space, time, and resources loosed on artists; asking for brilliance in return- not bookcovers. Gone are all the bounds of improvisational task doing that had contorted art into a parlor game low these many weeks. No more- “You’ll have one hundred Utrect bucks, and eight hours.” That “art” will not make it to the finale. The 90 day production time is a perfectly shaped window: long enough for substantial development, but short enough to keep everything sharp. In addition to time, one of the more noticeable constraints that had, up to this point, severely affected the “art” being made was the lack of reference materials. The artists were sequestered from television, newspapers, internet, and other commercial or collaborative avenues; hence so many self portraits. No more. Now we have money, time, and space. Let the Art Show begin.

Abdi, Miles, and Peregrine were something near outstanding. All three created and exhibited bodies of work that held together and were on par with, if not exceeded, a level of competence and professionalism seen at any major gallery. Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE was shocked. Jerry, SJP, guest judge David LaChapelle, returning judges Phillips, Serrano, and Yvonne Force Villareal were all taken aback by how not bad it all was. It was especially telling when upon seeing the quality of the work, SJP enthusiastically ran up to SDP to inquisitively exclaim “They DO have futures!(?)” Even the artists themselves were pleased with and intimidated by the caliber of work with which they were exhibiting. Earlier in the episode Peregrine predicted “I’m sure its’ gonna suck.” Lucky for us that was just some self-deprecating banter. All three artists excelled, especially Peregrine.

Miles was the prohibitive favorite. Winner of the first two challenges, and consistently producing well-made, intellectually limber works, Miles seemed built for this show. Of all the derogatory things one may say about Miles, one could never question his artisthood. The boy moves, talks, looks like an artist. You could include him in a photo array and strangers would identify him as an artist. He fits nearly every Hollywood cliché for waif-ish, hyper-sensitive, ultra-cute nerdboy artist. When Simon de Pury visited him, Simon was overjoyed with the creative peculiarities that pulse from young Miles. He has all the hallmarks of The Next Great Artist.

For the finale Miles created another elegant grouping of black and white photographs and geometric digital prints. As usual, it was all based on something that only makes sense to Miles, but the visual manifestations of his ideas are engaging nonetheless. What was conspicuously absent from his show was Miles the engineer. The boy who crafted anything and everything from plywood and 2×4’s evaporated into the interior-minded formalism of pixilated emotion. The most astute reading of his work came from David LaChapelle who said “It looks like art, but what is he saying?” As it turns out, not much. In a stunning turn of events Miles was eliminated first.

Peregrine is now the favorite. She has a solid decade of art world experience, and could not be outdone by a 22 year old. Peregrine’s exhibition was spectacular; replete with drawings, sculpture, photography and even a cotton candy machine. Her carnival theme was an extrapolation of the piece that won week 7 for her (the my little pony drugscape). Peregrine created colorful wax and plastic sculptures of horses and doll bits that rung with a cheerful yet disquieting tone. They were complemented by breathy drawings of young girls throwing up all over their pretty pink dresses. It was all dominated by a haunting large-scale photograph of two preserved fawn fetuses (trust me, the photograph is much nicer than it sounds in print). Not enough can be said about the photograph of the fallen fawns. It is the best single piece made in association with this television show, and has great meaning and serenity that stretches well beyond the confines of basic cable. The combination of all these works created a feeling of comfort, even enjoyablity in relating to the more squeamish results of indulgence.

I was worried about Abdi. Miles the powerhouse, Peregrine the veteran, it seemed Abdi was to be a distant third. At 22, not many can pull together a cohesive, intellectually stimulating show out of their mother’s basement. But Abdi persevered and put forth a collection that showcased his considerable skills of rendering naturalistically. Like Peregrine, Abdi looked to his most successful piece (the horizontal portrait that got him into the finale) and grounded his exhibition on lessons he learned in the response to it. Abdi’s work was mostly based on his own body, mostly in a state of repose. The images, both drawings and paintings, expressed this repose as some sort of malady, but in his treatment of them revealed grace and freedom. Abdi also created two life-sized relief sculptures of topless black men (one a self portrait) in basketball apparel seemingly stretched across air- not dissimilar from the Air Jordan logo. These pieces were laid on the floor, a decision that made them feel more sunken in than bursting out. Abdi’s magnum opus was a large oil painting of a young black man (himself?) in a body bag. A rather solid painting, its’ title, Home, imbued the piece with somber resignation.

Abdi won.

Abdi is The Next Great Artist.

I’m not sure exactly why. It is not as if Abdi is a bad choice, he just didn’t seem to have won the challenge. I liked Peregrine’s show more. My friends liked Peregrine’s show more. My mom liked Peregrine’s show more. She put on a better show. Her main downfall (I couldn’t imagine that it would be fatal) was including too much stuff. She presented too many mediums in such high quality that it felt like a retrospective instead of an exhibition: a biennial of thy self. Being too productive is not usually a vice, but it may have come across as two shows crammed into one space. In contrast, Abdi barely had one full show. The current art fair conditioning of the art world eats up every expensive inch of gallery space. In relation to “le nouveau salon”, Abdi’s exhibition probably read incredibly restrained, contemplative even.

So Abdi won.

But the real winners are us, the art luvin’ public. There was much commotion over how negatively a reality show would portray the art world. How trivializing art’s sacred creation in front of cameras could tear culture clear off the bone. Well, it’s been 10 weeks and we’re all still here. No damage done- the world keeps spinnin’. Art is still as hoity and intimidating as it was 11 weeks ago.

What is not the same as it was 11 weeks ago is that my friends, my roommates, and my mom now know who Will Cotton and Jon Kessler are. They’ve heard of Jerry Saltz and Ryan McGinness. This is huge. These people are not famous. For lifelong art lovers like myself, they are, but not to the general public. They are art world famous, which makes a huge difference in overall popular cultural impactfulness. Bravo has breeched the barrier, removed the qualifier from their fame. And for that I am very grateful.

Long live China Chow.


Miles pointing out China Chow’s extraordinary wardrobe.

Miles’ nickname growing up- Miles of Smiles!!!

Simon explaining his first trip to Minneapolis was because he’s a huge Prince fan.


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