It’s early yet. But so far, so good.
Last evening’s debut of Bravo TV’s Work of Art: America’s Next Great Artist was not an entertainment FAIL. Nor was it a creative FAIL. In fact, Episode 1 rates a surprisingly pleasant thumbs up from this viewer. Less of a surprise was producer Sarah Jessica Parker’s arrival on scene to graciously welcome the contestants. Perhaps one more bit of reassurance they will be treated with some small measure of dignity?
Certainly, the impressive line-up of hosts and judges (Simon de Pury, Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn, Jerry Saltz, China Chow, Bill Powers) adds credibility to this venture. And to the stated desire to bring fine art to a wider audience through the guise of Reality TV, even as we know hijinks and fireworks await.
After all – it is entertainment, right?
Reality TV is formulaic, but effective
And the formula should work. Modeled after Top Chef, the timeframes will be short, the challenges, implausible, and there’s no shortage of personalities present and already revealing their tics and quirks, exactly the way we like our Reality royals.
Crossing mediums, styles, and demographics, we have the self-proclaimed “hottie” (Jaclyn) who wields a rockin’ figure along with her figurative brush. There’s feral photog Mark Velasquez, “good guy” Erik (underwhelming with his first foray outside amateur status), and cocky, grating-on-our-nerves Nao. Who else but a performance artist to offer the one we love to hate, as foil to more established commodities like Peregrine Honig who are doing, well… what they do?
Quirks and quality
Unexpected discoveries? There’s the winning work of Miles Mendenhall, whose portrait popped on every dimension (for me), which suggests we might be in for a dose of quality with our quirky. And possibly some layers to his layers, with a few former rumors flying that he was adding a degree of performance art to his persona. Whether or not that’s just so much media noise, it’s an intriguing (and fitting) concept, and we’re likely to see worthy work from him, and many of the artists.
As for architect Amanda who was the first to pack her palette knives and go, I agree that her painting was a yawn, and unsuccessful as portraiture. But I bemoan the loss of an abstract painter so early in the game, crossing my fingers that more abstraction lurks among the lucky 13 who remain. And for ye who doubt the possibilities and power of abstract portraiture – might I simply say – Willem de Kooning?
Wait and see?
For now, I’m stymied by the relatively tender touch of the judges, yet relieved (this is only Round 1), and I’m pleased at the straightforward but effective first exercise. I’ll be sticking around for Episode 2, waiting for the inevitable explosions and increasingly involved challenges. It may be formulaic, but it’s a formula that works.