Week Fifty Two

On watching the first few episodes of “Work of Art”

Posted in Art news, Art review by sarahbakerhansen on 20 July 2010

My sister Lindsey posted a really insightful comment on my recap post from episode five of Bravo’s “Work of Art.” I liked it so much that I thought it was worth a post of its own, and figured I’d finish this post in advance of tonight’s episode.

Here’s what she wrote:

“This show is so strange to watch. It’s one thing to see someone crank out a dress with limited resources and stylistic constraints in a short period of time, but for me, the idea is not jiving with the creation of a piece of visual art (it actually makes the most sense to me in terms of writing–free writing or timed writing with a theme or set of arbitrary rules isn’t a new idea, but would probably make for boring TV).

Maybe I have a skewed perception of fashion as art, or art as art, or the exploitation of the creative process that goes into both. I do believe fashion is art, of course, and that it can be high art…still, I don’t put Consuelo Castiglioni, say, in the same category as Matthew Barney, even if I could easily see wearing Marni to a Barney opening.

It’s an interesting concept.”

I agree that it’s an interesting concept, though I can’t say I really like it. As the weeks go on, I find myself less interested in watching the show. I’ve always enjoyed the part of my job that lets me get into artist studios, see their work, watch them create and talk about process. More often than not, I leave with some real insight. But “Work of Art” takes that situation – often intimate, always a result of a certain level of trust between viewer and artist – and makes it seem cheap. I don’t think it would be bad for “just anyone” – including the millions of Bravo viewers out there – to see what happens in an artist’s studio; to the contrary, I wish more people could have that experience, which leads to a deeper understanding of art. What “reality” television specializes in, though, is the bastardizing of reality in neat, drama filled, hour-long chunks that aren’t really real at all. I know this. I do. But it’s harder for me to swallow when it concerns art.

The other thing that bothers me about the show is that artists are being constrained to work under a theme – an idea that historically doesn’t lead to very good art. Last week’s episode, which focused on public art, was an exception – they got to go any way they wanted, but had to work in teams, which is another unfortunate reality show construct, because team challenges equate bickering, and usually bad art/food/fashion, depending on the program.

I think Lindsey’s comment is spot-on in terms of what this show does with creativity. Making a piece of visual art with a budget of $25 in two hours is probably going to lead to some poorly executed art. In rare cases, that might be different. But I highly doubt the “next great artist” will be a former Bravo show contestant on the program of the same name.

See you tonight.

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2 Responses

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  1. Scott Blake said, on 23 July 2010 at 9:08 am

    I like Lindesy’s idea for the Poetry Slam game show. I’d watch that.

    Even though I feel “Work of Art” cares more about personal drama and less about the stuff they are making, a new show about art is better then no show at all. It got us talking.

  2. lindsey said, on 27 July 2010 at 9:29 pm

    Aw. 🙂 I feel honored.

    I completely agree about the bastardization of the intimacy between an artist and a viewer who’s being let into the artist’s process–I think that’s the main issue. I wonder if artists really do tend to make creative decisions on the fly, or based on so many opinions, or if, given a longer time to work, consider the work more. I’d bet it’s the latter.

    But Scott is also right–it has gotten a discussion of art into the old mainstream, and that’s got to be a sign of something, right?

    Also, Scott, the show you’re talking about is called “Def Poetry Jam.” Mine would probably be called “Workshop,” featuring a bunch of sweaty people in lumpy brown sweaters writing about crows.


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