Week Fifty Two

Work of Art: The Next Great Artist episode seven

Posted in Art news, Art review by sarahbakerhansen on 21 July 2010

So after last week’s rather dramatic cuss-word laden public art challenge, and the also rather dramatic exit of Erik, we join the artists for a fresh challenge. The preview clues us in that this week, the good-looking Miles is the target of ire.

In the first few minutes of the show, the contestants talk about Erik’s dramatic exit and how they’re alternatively sad and relieved. They all go up to the roof and enjoy breakfast together as a tension reliever. It’s a gorgeous roof deck, to be sure, and the seven remaining contestants spend some time getting to know each other, and topics like Ryan’s religion (He was raised a Jehovah’s Witness) come up.

Simon comes in and tells the artists they’re going on a trip to a surprise art destination, which turns out to be Soho’s Children’s Museum of the Arts. It’s not what they expected, but it’s clearly going to reflect their challenge. The challenge asks the artists to dig deep and create a piece inspired by what made them become an artist. They have to use the materials in the museum: things like pipe cleaners, crayons and paint. Simon urges them to be bold.

The artists begin to work with kid materials at kid-sized tables. Nicole talks about how her twin sister does art therapy, and decides she wants to pull specific childhood memories for her piece. She’s making frames and exploring her quest for perfection. Abdi begins to create a comic book scene about his mother, who raised him as a single parent. Art, he says, kept him on the right track.

Miles decides to re-work a piece that he’s done in the past; it’s not reminiscent of his childhood, but he’s pleased with it.

Jaclyn is stumped on what to make. She doesn’t want to explore her childhood, which she describes as lonely, when she ate lunch alone at school in the bathroom stall. It seems like she’s already exploring a lot of these themes of isolation in her other work, so it’s unclear why things have become so hard now.


The materials are both challenging and inspiring to the artists. Some are finding creative freedom in the material while others are hindered. Peregrine talks about how she was raised in an artist commune in San Francisco and she thinks of herself as a child at an adult’s party. Her sculptural piece is inspired by those experiences. So far, her piece is a lot different from anyone else’s. It’s much bolder.

All of the artists begin to deal with memories – times when they were left out, experiences they had with family members, difficult moments. The hardest part seems for many to be realizing that much of their inspiration – even in real life – comes from their past.

Meanwhile, Miles and Nicole continue their flirtation in a box of giant balls. Simon arrives a few minutes later with snacks.

Simon starts his reviews with Ryan, who is making a drawing akin to one a child would make, using his left hand. Simon says again: too literal. Abdi’s comic book painting looks “like an 11-year-old” did it, and the artist is concerned. Jaclyn’s abstract paintings don’t look like much – Simon said he liked the idea of using pipe cleaners more, but she’s divided.

Simon is more impressed with the conceptual, adult works that deal with memory: Nicole’s set of mixed media pieces that represent layers of memory, Peregrine’s candy-like sculptural pieces that evoke her awakening as an artist.

Miles’ piece has nothing to do with his childhood, and Simon thinks this is a big problem. Miles says he doesn’t think he’s a fully developed artist yet, and this makes the other artists mad: they think he’s cheating by referring back to another piece he made in the past.

Overall, Simon says he’s concerned and unimpressed with most of what he saw. He also tells the artists that the days of immunity are over.


After Simon leaves, Abdi scraps his piece. He starts interviewing the other artists and asking them what people asked them to draw. Ryan decides to add another level of complexity to his piece, and Jaclyn starts playing with pipe cleaners. Miles starts making rubber band balls and decides to add them to his piece. Ryan calls Ryan a douche bag, and it’s clear that Miles is pretty much ignoring the challenge and just making whatever he feels like.

The next day the artists get ready to install the show, and Nicole says she thinks it’s going to be one of the most personal gallery shows so far, and it’s going to be hard to hear what the judges have to say.

Ryan and Jaclyn both change their pieces a lot, and Jaclyn does end up using the pipe cleaners and pom-poms, as Simon suggested. She’s done well in the past listening to what he said, and it will be interesting to see if this is any exception.

Mark finishes his piece – a children’s book – and Ryan urges him not to talk about it too literally. I guess he’s learning from experience.


The guest judge for the challenge this week is painter Will Cotton. The judges like Abdi’s images that describe the role of the artist. Mark’s book – while very literal – shows a new side of his artwork. Peregrine’s piece, “Rainbow,” is described by Cotton as “ballsy.” Ryan’s piece tries hard to get into his childhood mind, and the judges seem into it. Miles’ piece ends up looking like a grid, and Cotton says it reminds him of space invaders. I can see that, too, but knowing his attitude during the challenge turns me off the piece.

Abdi, Nicole, Peregrine, Ryan and Jaclyn get pulled up for the critique, while Miles and Mark are safe.

Ryan said when he was trying to draw a like a child,it brought up memories, and the judges see that his experience was intense. The work he didn’t like is torn up on the floor, and the judges find that more interesting than the finished piece, which just looks like a child’s work.

Peregrine describes her chalk cigarettes and party remnants as her childhood experience, and how later in life many of those people she knew as a child died of AIDS. The piece is a mix of candy and drugs, and the judges can see both experience and innocence in the piece. The details, they say, tell the story.

Jaclyn describes her final piece – a black and white tree painting  mixed with strings – as her own secret world. But the judges don’t see that in the work. They say there’s no risk in the stark piece and that she tried to hard to make it relatable to others.

Nicole’s sculptural mobile is meant to convey memories from her childhood. The judges like that it created a mystery, and she’d done that before. They like the level of obscurity, and that it’s deeply personal.

Finally, Abdi’s piece. His collection of drawings aren’t personal. They ask him which drawings connect to him and he points out the superhero drawings. The judges say that’s his theme, but he removed himself from the piece when he asked other people for their ideas.


The judges think the work either works or comes off as amateurish. THey like Peregrine because she created a risky work that’s deeply personal. Nicole brought mystery into the work and they liked how she made the materials her own. Ryan’s piece didn’t let the judges know him and the drawings were too generic. The substance wasn’t there. They wonder if he’s learning anything from week to week. Jaclyn couldn’t make herself vulnerable this week as she has in past weeks and the judges are disappointed. Abdi’s piece was dull, safe and random. It’s commercial and cliché.

Nicole and Peregrine are the top two, and Peregrine takes home the prize this week for her risky choice.

The bottom three are Abdi, Jaclyn and Ryan. Their work, the judges say didn’t make them feel anything: the ideas were under-developed, guarded, amateurish and bland. Abdi is safe and the elimination comes down to Jaclyn and Ryan.

Ryan, who didn’t take the judge’s past criticisms to heart, gets the boot.

He said he stands by his piece and wishes he could stay, but is also glad to go home and make what he loves: realistic oil paintings that he doesn’t have to explain to anyone.

Next week: another team challenge. Looks like some portraits are in our future.

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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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Work of Art: The Next Great Artist episode six

Posted in Art news by sarahbakerhansen on 14 July 2010

I got home late tonight, so I don’t have a full recap of episode six. But a moment near the end of this week’s episode, focused on a public art challenge, rung true, and would have had I seen the whole show or not. The guest judge, Yvonne Force Villareal, president and co-founder of the Art Production Fund, commented on the bickering between one of the two teams by saying “This is the reason there isn’t more public art. People can’t agree.”

That, I thought, was probably the most authentic moment of this series so far.

Public art is one of the most controversial topics in the art world – what makes it good, what makes it bad, what people are interested in are constant questions that don’t have comfortable answers.

The two teams – four contestants each – worked together to create a public art piece that was to make a bold statement. One was a monolithic, geometric orb. The other created a seat for the viewer to peruse the sky above the New York City skyline. The team who made the geometric piece – consisting of Abdi, Mark, Nicole and Ryan – won. No one got immunity, but the team chose Nicole as the winner – the piece was her idea.

The other team – Jacklyn, Peregrine, Miles and Erik – got panned for their piece. The scale was off, it seemed unsafe, and they argued constantly. Jcakyln had immunity and Erik – the most negative contestant on the show, who also wasn’t on board with the sculpture and acted really passive-aggressive about it – got the boot.

Next week: the artists head to Soho and land at a mystery destination; the challenge forces them to give up control.

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Work of Art: The Next Great Artist episode five

Posted in Art review by sarahbakerhansen on 7 July 2010

This week’s challenge is inspired by the artists’ drive around New York in a fleet of cars. They all end up at the Audi Forum, where they learn the drive wasn’t just relaxing, it’s a source of inspiration. They need to create a piece about their experience.

The teaser about romance this week paid off, and Miles starts to woo Nicole. Marc, ever the optimist, complains that he thinks Miles is more of an actor than an artist .The rest of the group get down to the challenge.

Ryan is making a portrait of himself, like he’s done for the past two challenges. Simon points this out and asks him if he’s “narcissistic.” Before the break we see Jaclyn throwing paint balls and one contestant call another’s work “hotel art.” ouch.


Jaime Lynn is working on another cartoony piece and Simon isn’t feeling it. Again this week she decides not to heed his advice.

Simon tells Mark his piece (the aforementioned “hotel art”) is a real departure from his previous work. Simon compares the piece to Mondrian: is Mark going for the 21st Century Mondrian? He says no. Simon says its brave to go in a new direction.

Miles is working on a piece inspired by the simple quiet moments of the city and Simon likes it. He thinks the police barricade in front of his photograph of an open space will have a great effect.

Simon tells the girls that they will all have to live together now and there’s some tension between Brian and Jaclyn. Marc is still bitching about Jaclyn, though it seems at this point more out of the fact that he actually likes her. At the end of the night, all of the artists seem to be pressed for time.


The next day, Erik continues to bitch about Miles, saying he’s a bad artist. Eric also tells Ryan that he ought to use the “Bob Ross Technique” of creating movement in his self-portrait by using a dry brush.

We see a lot of spliced together footage of artists moving fast, and then Simon is there, saying time is up. Some of the artists are feeling nervous as they prepare to install the work.

At the openings, we see the wide array of drive-inspired pieces. China Chow re-introduces the judges, including  the hyper-realist painter Richard Phillips.

Peregine’s piece “Raudi” that plays with language and the Audi name seem to be a hit with the judges. Nicole’s “piece, Suspension,” is one of the only sculptures. Ryan’s third self-portrait doesn’t seem to be a hit, though the judges like the simplicity of Miles’ drawing and street signs.

Jaclyn delves into more self-portraits and splices in mirrors. The judges surmise that the men in all the photos might be men looking at her.

Miles, Jaclyn, Mark, Ryan and Jaime Lynn get called to the critique. Everyone else is safe.

First up, Mark’s Mondrian piece. He said the piece is a stylized version of a map. The judges ask him if he thought of using photography and he said no, that he wanted a handmade piece. They say it’s too generic, and the hotel room comment comes from one of them, too. Yikes. The painting doesn’t take any risks and doesn’t make a statement.

Ryan’s piece, a self-portrait of himself driving, is supposed to be a fantasy of him enjoying himself. The judges say the piece is too literal. They don’t get the chance to fill in any blanks.

Jaclyn’s piece was in fact about the men staring at her. The mirrors make the viewer self-aware. The judges like the triangle between the viewer, the artist and the people in the images. They are encouraged by the growth in her work. They like the pressure of the gaze and the reflection – like that of the city.

Jaime Lynn said she was struck by the energy of the city. Se said she wanted to car dance, and that’s what her piece is about. The judges think again it’s too literal: dancing, a car tire and images of New York. It gets confusing and it’s all over the place. It has no sex, speed or status, one judge says. There’s an attempt at exuberance but it doesn’t have any rhythm. Jaime says it makes sense to her.

Miles said his piece is all about simplicity. The judges like that it’s not over-stimulating, but they remember what he did in challenge two – where he played with the same ideas – but he says he likes to make work about comfort and they like that. It’s simple, direct and it involves the world, the viewer and the artist.


The judges say the standouts were the artists who looked for magic in small moments. They like Miles’ simple sculpture and photography piece, and they think the work stands on its own. They can see him in the piece.

Jaclyn put herself in the work and pushed herself forward again this week. They find it encouraging. They thought her work was powerful.

Jaime’s piece: not so much. There is no saving grace for the work, they say. They also say it could be the work of a 17-year-old girl.

Mark’s work is too boring. Ryan’s piece is too superficial and boring; it also doesn’t fit his “rebellious” persona. It’s too obvious.


Miles and Jaclyn are the top two artists this week. Jaclyn ends up winning this week and wins immunity next week. She said it felt good to know her work was acknowledged and her ideas are good. She said she will continue to push herself.

Jaime Lynn, Ryan and Mark are the bottom three. Their work was dull, immature, cluttered and one-dimensional. Jaime Lynn – who was in the bottom for the second week – went home.

She said she wished she’d have done something to push the limits and that she was sad to go.

Up next week: the challenge looks like a public art piece, and it looks like everyone is going to be creating sculpture. Erik continues to lash out at every person on the show. He’s clearly defining himself, but it’s not as a great artist.

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