They’re tired. They’re stressed. They’re young.
Work of Art Episode 8, “Opposites Attract,” offers a reasonable challenge balancing specificity and free reign – in itself a fitting representation of the parameters of this week’s project. The remaining six artists are paired in teams, and tasked with collaborating on dualities: male and female, Heaven and Hell, order and chaos.
There’s nothing new in conceptualizing opposing forces in art, literature, or film. We struggle with opposites in our own lives, and that’s reflected in our creative endeavors. But perhaps it’s only with maturing that we realize the breadth of opposing forces that we experience.
Cue the cameras! Here lies one of the major flaws in this competition.
“Next great artist?” We all know that’s absurd, and as much an issue in this Reality TV experiment as the problematic format. If we tossed that notion, maybe the producers would include more established artists who would fare better in terms of what they actually create. Participants with some years under their belts, more along the lines of the cheftestants on Top Chef.
So here we are, as the game show continues.
Behind Curtain Number One – Nicole and Abdi (order-chaos). As for Curtain Number Two – Mark and Peregrine (Heaven-Hell). Last (but least?), Miles manipulating Jaclyn (male-female) behind Curtain Number Three. Or should I say wall?
Nicole plunges in with ideas and Abdi looks lost. Mark tries to get Peregrine posing in the buff and she turns the tables. Miles gleefully celebrates his ability to maneuver Jaclyn as he sees fit (he wants her “nekked” again, and she obliges).
Their collaboration is the winning work, though I’m weary of Machiavellian Miles, and would also like to see him attempt something other than constructions and printmaking. Still, that boy can spin a tale and throw up a wall. He can slather (appropriated) tar on a surface, add his “out of control” punching (ridiculous), convince Jackie to paint herself masturbating as a sign of control (huh?) and it’s thumbs up.
Or is it just thumbs up compared to the other efforts? Right. That’s more like it.
And while we’re on the subject of Miles, why is it that I think he would’ve created the same wall and convinced Jackie to paint the same portrait if the challenge had been pleasure and pain, good and evil, or almost anything else?
And his wall? Nice hammering. Otherwise, junk.
Mark’s downfall (descent into Hell?)
I have to give it to Peregrine for not falling into the “let’s get the girls naked in the name of art” trick. Mark wanted a rear view of his partner in the nude, jumping in the air, with a ray of light in the background. To him, that is “heaven.” Um… cliché?
In fact, Mark tweets throughout the show’s airing (extra entertainment), and subsequently offers images of his artwork. Check out this photograph on his Facebook page. It’s true to his original intention.
Honestly? It’s nice. Does “nice” cut it? Not so much.
What about Peregrine’s idea (just a way to say “not falling for it, buddy?”) – spotlighting Mark’s scar from a dramatic, life-threatening surgery, and creating a Heaven/Hell dichotomy from that? Let’s just say, it didn’t work either. And while it’s amusing (and gross) to watch Peregrine gather dirty cigarette butts on the New York City streets (to further adorn a paint dribbled, grommet bedecked enlarged photo of Mark with scar) – Heaven and Hell? That’s a stretch.
But Mark gets the boot because his half of the piece is deemed “too safe.” A big man baring his belly? That takes guts – pun intended. The image that results? It’s more compelling than Abdi’s – or the Miles wall, for that matter. Which brings me to the lackluster duo of order and chaos. It pains me to say it, but I believe one of them should have gone home.
Abdi and Nicole
Nicole takes charge on this assignment, and Abdi is left to creative confusion. Giving a nod to the reality of editing and its heavy hand, Abdi nonetheless comes across (again) as uninspired. And by now, it’s obvious, what these judges are looking for are sparks of creative thinking and process. Whatever the result, at the very least, they expect a concept that shows reflection, technical competence with materials, or some tiny element with a possibility of wowing us – were there more time.
Nicole is a creative thinker. She dives in and makes things. Successful visually or conceptually? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. And that’s part of the artistic process. Likewise, whether we like him or not, Miles has ideas. And shouldn’t art start with ideas? In comparison, Abdi appears out of his element. And the result, an odd, colorful, large scale something – falls flat.
Abdi and Mark wind up in the bottom of the dwindling heap. I can’t see either one taking home the proverbial gold, but this week, it seems to me that Abdi deserves the gallery door.
Another invisible guest judge?
I remain underwhelmed at the footage of guest judge Ryan McGinnis, whose vibrantly colored paintings and installations are worthy of a mention.
I won’t say this week was as much of a disappointment as the two prior episodes. We were privy to more art making footage (interesting to watch), tears from China Chow (huh?), and Jerry Saltz sounding more like Jerry Saltz (to Abdi: “I’m doubting your vision”). We had the guest judge inquiring as to whether or not Jaclyn pleasures herself standing up (again, huh?), a hesitant admission of yes (really?) – no doubt to ensure the authenticity of her naked painting.
More opposing forces? The show we love to hate?
But I’m a little confused (like Abdi) – wouldn’t verifying that Miles punches walls and Jackie performs private acts while standing be too literal? Weren’t the judges bemoaning the easy interpretations of light and dark around Heaven and Hell as too literal? Apparently, whether or not Jackie fingers herself in the upright position is relevant, as is Miles fisting the wall.
Returning to the rambling … um, “at hand,” we know Jaclyn has issues, and Miles has issues, and Peregrine has issues, and well, don’t we all have issues? But I’m back to my opening premise. Might we have more grownups next season, who are experienced artists, working out their dualities in more expressive and original fashion?
Images courtesy Bravo TV.
© D A Wolf