I couldn't bring myself to review Work of Art two weeks ago, hot on the heels of too many Work of Art recaps already. This is the problem of being the sole writer around here. Sometimes there's too much recapping to do and not enough time to do it in. And...nobody cares.
So without further ado, here's a very brief rundown of Episode 3: Make it Pop. As you might surmise, the young artists are instructed to create a piece based on pop art. They are led into a warehouse by a trail of shiny tin cans where they find host China Chow dressed in blue-munchkin finery with ascending buttons down her front. There's also a Campbell's Soup Can portrait by Andy Warhol, looking fiiiine, next to mentor Simon de Pury. Unfortunately the cans, portrait, and China's dress will be the most compelling works of art in the entire episode, so c'mon along with me as we relive the moment. (China Chow as a giant hamster in her cute munchkin dress next to a Warhol is my pop-art contribution.)
Cutting to the chase: Young Sun wins with his billboard-inspired "Prop 8" interactive piece. He leaves the back available with Sharpies so gallery patrons can write their opinions on Prop 8. This is a brilliant move because the winner of this challenge will get their work published in Entertainment Weekly and because he purposely doesn't put his opinion on the piece (although, as a gay man, we can surmise), he makes sure that the Prop 8 application is big and bold and reprintable.
Kymia is in second place with a close-up photo of her boobs as backdrop for a bottle of dirty water. It's sex and advertising and pollution, all in one. She laments she wishes she had known that the winning work of art would be in a national magazine, before she started photographing herself naked. And not surprisingly, she is not the winner. But if you want to see lots of shots of Kymia's boobs, this is the episode for you. Although Bravo could not bring itself to air Michelle's wooden-dowel sculpture of an erect penis the week before, boobs are no problem. Censorship: it's complex.
Double-elimination losers are Jazz-Minh with her failed attempt at Britney Spears celebrity self-portraiture, and Leon, whose glassy American Flag covered in corporate logos, fails to personalize his pop-art experience. The judges would rather Jazz-Minh had simply used a photo of her "bite me" lip tattoo. At the San Francisco Art Institute, I saw art like that practically every day. Leon's idea is tired but the judges manage not to yawn. Judge Bill Powers wants to know why Leon, as a deaf person, didn't address the added communication component of Facebook, since he threw the logo in there. What the what?
Dusty and Michelle are also in the bottom with a fast-food garbage can of shame and too-derivative Coke-can Warhol homage, respectively. China asks why Dusty didn't use bright, poppy colors on his "How Could You" bin and he and all of us in the audience must then spend a wasted moment, trying to imagine a colorful trash container for a moment. Nope--that didn't work either. I wonder if he'd had a couple of trays, mustard stains and more caustic message on the door flap, such as "Garbage In Garbage Out," would that have made it "pop"? Probably people would have thrown their trash in it and that would have at least kept the gallery clean.
So, pop art is pretty much a snore-fest. Asking a disparate group of young artists to create a work of pop is a lousy proposition if none of them work in the medium already. It's one of those movements that worked for a handful of people and puzzled most everyone else, who eventually jumped on the bandwagon, then jumped off again. Only Sucklord, who deals in mass-produced toy art, has much of a background in pop, and his consumer products based on Charlie Sheen rants, were probably dated even as the show taped. Are you all hipster attitude without the hipster cred, Sucklord? We shall see.
No point in complaining though. People get really mad at this show and its so-far sub par art masterpieces. They swear on Internet recap blogs never to watch again, but to them I say this: go pound sand. I doubt most people could have aced this challenge to a successful degree. Pop does best as a festering obsession, not as a day-and-a-half challenge. It was too open-ended to truly inspire. Although, as you can see, my kid was making Coke-inspired designs before he was two years old. We used to find these curved soda-can line-ups going all the way down our hall, with Cokes leading to Sprites leading to Mountain Dews as you walked throughout the house. We had him assessed and doctors assured us he's fine, just focused, I guess.
That brings us to Episode 4: Back to School. Now this is a successful challenge. A bunch of kids are in the studio, hanging around their precocious kid art when the contestants are led in. Shock and awe follow as each artists confronts an underage kid artist. The challenge: make a work of art based on the kid art, but make it gallery ready. The winning piece will be auctioned by mentor Simon de Pury with proceeds going to a city art program. Whoo! Kid art!
Confronted by earnest, imaginative little people, the artists are galvanized into action. Sarah makes a clever shadowbox whose figures dance around with the aid of a hidden light and fan. As in all the previous weeks, she's deemed safe so we barely get to see her work or story or anything. Her biggest narrative thread is laughing hysterically at Young, who's jumping around in front of a camera in his underwear (based on his portfolio, he does this quite a bit), to prep for his birdman piece, based on a colorful bird mobile. He's safe.
Sucklord is touchingly hopeful that his tree-sculpture of secret worlds piece will live up to his artist's tree drawing. It doesn't. It starts out well, but ends up a last-minute mess. He tried. Judge Jerry Saltz promises to go "medievel" on Sucklord if he finds him working with Star Wars figurines again. What a strange battle that would be. Sucklord mentally crosses off George Lucas figures from his roster of toy muses.
Lola is spooked by mentor Simon de Pury's criticism of her doodly flower/mountain drawing, and she ends up making an even bigger mess than Sucklord. Flowery, scribbles over flower photos. Somehow she's safe. Also spooked by a de Pury brow furrow during mentor-time, Michelle alters her swan with bloody poked-out eyeballs paper sculpture (based on a simple drawing of eyes) to a very weird, fairy-tale-like sculpture of an ogre-like creature, peeking out from some kind of greenery shapes. She's so odd. I like her ability to fold paper many times over.
Dusty is on top with an interactive door-hinged wall hanging that acts as a visual biography of his young artist. Dusty can really build stuff. I admire that. And he's a fifth-grade art teacher, so he taps into child art immediately. But he doesn't win. Kymia clinches with a detailed pen-and-ink portrait of a dead girl on a beach, covered in birds (I think that's what it is--hard to see and impossible to read on the Bravo site, probably due to copyright issues), with a little carrot sticking out of her mouth. What? You had to be there. Her young artist gave her a still life of a carrot on a beach and Kymia kept probing until her artist gave up a crazy imaginative story about the girl who ate everything in sight and died. That was clever of Kymia, who had so little to work with initially. She can obviously draw extremely well. Kudos.
Bottom three: Sara has a major emotional breakdown as she recounts her parents' divorce when she was ten years old. She nearly forgets her young artist's exuberant, large-scale word-stamped color piece (with its emphasis on her favorite word, "Chocolate"), and goes for a tiny triptych, outlining the affair, "divorse," and subsequent love child that followed. The judges are visibly disturbed by her crying jag during critique. Judge Bill Powers suggests they bypass the content of her art and go for the style instead. That was a good idea. Guest judge and executive producer of the show, Sarah Jessica Parker, wonders why Sara didn't just make a piece of art based on the ten-year-old she wishes she could have been. That is such an actressy way of looking at things, isn't it?
Tewz is called on the floor for his crumbly concrete "GROW" letters with green plant-like shoots sticking through the cracks. He wants to show how living things manage to thrive, even in city concrete, but the judges are like, "eh." Sucklord gives an impassioned speech, saying Tewz's work has balls. But the judges are all, "Naaah." Maybe if he had made a concrete sculpture, rather than those literal "GROW" letters, the judges would have thought his work had balls. He only had a drawing of a radish on a sidewalk to work from. That must have been tough. Jerry Saltz calls him on his lack of imagination and that's that. No more Tewz.
And now for this week's Work-of-Art-inspiration artwork. I made this last year with an unfinished drawing my kid had discarded. I painted it and added his handwriting, using primitive transfer techniques, and here 'tis. I find it inspiring, though why, I can't say. I think because I helped him like something he had tossed, by simply adding to it until it became something new. When he saw the finished work he said, "I didn't know I could draw that well."
Next week: What could be more inspirational? That's right, newspapers!