Saturday, November 12, 2011

Half-ass TV recap: Work of Art, Ep 5

That's right! Work of Art, Ep 5: Ripped from the Headlines! Simon de Pury cheerfully awakens the remaining artists at the ungodly hour of 5:30 A.M. to take a trip to the New York Times printing plant in Queens. This show is very cruel. They're artists, not farm animals. But with minimal grumbling, the sleepy, rumpled creatives ooh and ahh at the rapidly moving newspaper whirlwind all around them.

Dusty correctly notes that America sucks for a lot of people right nowThe artists have ten minutes to pick a headline that will inspire their works of art. All artworks must contain The Times to meet the challenge requirements. Using it as a drop-cloth doesn't count. Kymia is worried because she never reads the paper. Lola wants to win because her mother forced her to read the front page of The Times every Saturday instead of watching cartoons. I can barely get my kid to read at all, unless it's the history of the Titanic, which as "a fan of maritime disasters," is all he'll read about lately. Maybe we can ease him in--start with "Sunday Styles" and take it from there.

Everyone scrambles for headlines except for The Sucklord, who decides to park himself in a corner and simply read the paper. He finds a BP oil-spill story and calls it a day. The rest are flailing about with papers flying in frantic abandon. I hope they got pancakes afterwards. The winner of this challenge will get $20,000 and the winning art will be installed in the lobby of the New York Times building. Wowee wow wow!

They have a day plus a few hours to complete the task (not bad for $20,000 worth of work), so they get to scrambling/creating. Sarah is cutting strips of words, signifying madness, based on a story about a depressed writer. Michelle illustrates all the terrible bruises she sustained from an hit-and-run car/bicycle accident the year before. She's been touched by a story about insurance claims made by victims of crimes. Kymia found a story about the Long Island serial killer and she's structuring a life-sized coffin full of plaster, newspapers and body parts. Kymia--the New York Times won't go for that in their lobby! She's an artist all right.

The Sucklord struggles, starting out with a representation of an actual newspaper page, with cut-outs painted blue, that he'll spill "oil" from. It could work, but mentor Simon de Pury has other ideas. He encourages Sucklord to not be so literal, since that's been a problem with all his work so far, along with using too many Star Wars figurines. Sucklord trashes everything and starts building stacks of money, dripping with "oil" and covered with NY Times paper bands, because, he attempts to claim, the Times did not cover the story thoroughly enough, so they're compliant. Sucklord! That's not going in the Times' lobby either!

Young wants to pay tribute to then-incarcerated artist Ai Weiwei, which on one hand, is a good-will effort, since Ai Weiwei was a political prisoner in China at the time of production and no one knew what the outcome of his imprisonment would be. On the other hand: brilliant headline, Young! The judges, who were all probably wondering where Ai Weiwei was at that moment, will be pleased. He attempts bleaching the paper to instill the notion of censorship but the words are still visible so his alternate plan is tied-up stacks of black-painted newspapers with "Where is Ai Weiwei?" headlines. Now THIS will go in the NY Times lobby, indeed.

Dusty's dark silhouettes of depressed Americans across a crumpled-paper covered U.S. map and Lola's drawing based on photos of Libyan freedom fighters with inadequate weaponry are in the top three with Young's Ai Weiwei stacks. Young wins. Dusty is visibly crushed not to get the $20,000. He was hoping to have another child with Mrs. Dusty back home. But Young will be using the money to help his mom travel to Korea. And she has cancer. So, you know--it's good. Lola's back story isn't as compelling, but I think her drawing and slightly sardonic, distancing hand-written captions should have won. Perhaps if she hadn't included the unexceptional Times-wrapped tools leaning against the wall beneath her illustration, she might have won. Except the contest called for newspaper to be included, so Catch-22. Dusty's work was good, but I've noticed that map-art tends to get passed over in prize-winning situations. Too literal, perhaps, but I thought he made good on his "Darkening Mood in America" headline.

Down in the bottom dregs are Bayeté with some mis-matched golden doors and shiny lettering representing a Dreamgirls review (I think). The door knobs don't match up becuase he painted the wrong side of one of the doors. His lack of carpentry skills at first seems purposeful to the judges but then guest judge Adam McEwen points out that Bayeté's explanation for his work makes it even worse. Originally it was supposed to be some doorway leading to heaven or something. Sad. Sarah's weird leaning cut-out words are deemed meaningless of content. The Sucklord is called to task for his transparent lack of anything going on with his piece. It's like a would-be politically Goth window display from a nonprofit arts foundation in a former appliance-repair shop. Not that I would have seen anything like that while living in pre-dot-com boom San Francisco for 25 years...

Bayeté is out--not bad for a guy who should have lost in the first round with his awful identity art (also featuring money--don't use money or maps, artists!). He seems like a nice guy. Good luck to you, Bayeté! The Sucklord lives for another day!

Next week: Lola gets the "cat-fight edit" by making Kymia cry and then meowing and holding her hand up like a claw. I'd be careful, Lola. Kymia makes serial-killer art, you know.

Today's inspirational work from Work of Art is a tribute to James Van Doren, co-inventor of Vans footwear. His obituary ran in last Sunday's Times. Along with his brother, he engineered a specialized rubber that, along with a diamond-shaped sole pattern, would help sailors stick to the decks of their boats. Subsequently skateboarders in Southern California discovered that Vans helped keep them from falling off their boards. When Sean Penn, playing Spicoli, wore the checkerboard slip-ons in "Fast Times at Ridgemont High," a cultural shift in footwear took place. Condolences to James Van Doren's family and friends. I love how he helped accidentally create a fashion/sports trend.

I own a fine pair of Vans that I bought specifically to play drums in (drummers feet gotta stick to the pedals). But I find that they really are rad for scootering too, when I brought Jackson's scooter to school the other day. The big, flat Vans soul acts like a paddle along the sidewalk. Oil-pastel rubbings of my big Vans.

Close-up featuring a mini-portrait of James Van Doren.

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