Friday, December 02, 2011

Half-ass TV recap: Work of Art Ep 7

Whoo! Work of Art Episode 7 La Dolce Arte is a Fiat 500 car-commercial auto-parts sculpture competition! And the winner will receive $25,000! WOW--that's like working on a real commercial, kids. So now the artists are all in a tizzy because it's down to what, six artists? Big money's involved (again) and nothing lets the creativity flow like the automobile industry combined with a nationally televised promotion and a big, fat cash prize.

Don't choke now!

Well, mostly they choked, and who could blame them? It was not an easy challenge. Anyone who's attempted to build a three-dimensional construction in one day with auto parts (two of the artists don't know how to drive and another, Michelle, was in a hit-and-run accident while riding her bike) will sympathize. Sculpture, unless you have a particularly spatially inclined brain with an aptitude for engineering, is very, very difficult to pull off. Throw in some weirdly shaped metal parts and well, it's daunting, no doubt. But this is also a recipe for something potentially unique and surprising and Sara J. manages to rise to the challenge.

Wait--first Dusty has to wear Young's short-shorts because he won/lost a bet that if they won the last challenge (and $30,000 that went with it), he'd do so. Prance, Dusty, prance! I will say that both Young and Dusty have nice legs. What are the odds of that?

Everyone is shown a beautifully laid out disassembled Fiat 500, its parts in fanciful arrays across the gallery floor. Impressive--these modern vehicles. Someday cars will be made out of steel-reinforced plastic pods that can hover on a cushion of air, but for now the internal combustion engine is what they get.

Fifteen minutes of scrambling for anything they can grab (it's like "Supermarket Sweep"!) and they're off to the studio where they'll have 24 hours and one hour the next morning to complete a piece featuring at least one auto part. It's a puzzler but Sara J. gets down to ripping out a car seat and gathering its foam stuffing. Kymia finds the key to the car and immediately wants to grind it down into shavings of stardust for a galaxy-diorama. Kymia: I've moved so many times and had so many house keys made and I'm here to tell you: key shavings do not resemble star dust in any way, shape or form. They're dull shards of metal that are best swept away. She'll find out.

Young builds a robot (yawn). Sarah K. is thinking about her dad who worked in the auto industry. She skins two car seats and mounts them on canvas for a kind of Rorschach test double portrait. Michelle is building a hanging guy whose organs are all showing and made out of gears, and bolts and balloon intestines. He's going to be licking a car window because he has a fetish. Ha ha! This will be good. WE THINK.

While Kymia mounts her shavings in wax and attempts to build a wee box to house them in, Dusty decides to do a face mask and embed it in a steering wheel in remembrance of a bad childhood car accident. Surely Fiat will be impressed. Dusty's mask preparation is like something out of a Three Stooges short, with Kymia forgetting to help him out of his mask as he lies on the floor, covered in goo from forehead to beard, trying to shout, "MMMMMM! HMMM MMMM!" Finally she runs over and peels it off to reveal: inverted Dusty.

Lola has no idea what to do. But she's working away as usual on several ideas anyway. There are pots of steaming crystal-making solutions and ancient-artifact metal plates and a glass painting and eventually a big sketch she traces from a photo of herself. Kymia is all like, "I freehand draw, like an artist. She traces, which is cheating!" But lots of artists trace, especially when working big and in a hurry. I have no beef with tracing as long as the outcome works. Lola scribbles a bunch of thought blurbs on top of her portrait because Jerry said a couple episodes back that he liked that. She covers a car door with foil and talks about being a good witch. Hoo boy.

Everyone knows a Lola. That waify, sex-kittenish, manic-pixie arty girl who knows lots of guys but has few or no girl friends. But generally these artists seem to get along and are supportive of each other, so Bravo production gives her a lot of camera time to make it seem like evil is afoot. Really, frustration is afoot as Kymia's box thing is falling apart and Dusty hates his steering wheel-face, and mentor Simon de Pury shoots down Michelle's goof-tastic balloon-intestine window-licker guy, saying it's better suited for the child-inspired challenge. She becomes self-doubting and starts working on a droopy paper grill sculpture beneath the car's real grill, making a "happy-sad" car. Wuh-oh, this is not good.

Gallery show! Sara J.'s piece, Backfire, consists of a muffler, mounted diagonally from the ground, belching out an array of floral-looking foam parts that point jaggedly every which way. I can't help thinking that it's a fine-art ode to flatulence, but even so, it's really good. Almost poetic in form and an interesting mix of metal with known and unknown materials combined as a new-found object. Since she's mainly an illustrator (and a good one), this is a lovely surprise. Sarah K.'s skinned car seats on canvas are also good--making an object that's bold and recognizable but weirdly abstract at the same time. They're in the top.

Dusty scrapped his steering-wheel-of-pain and instead uses an well-known preschool-teacher technique, enlarged. He puts the lettering, "going to work," "going home" on each car tire and rolls them across paper like giant ink stampers. The paper is hung behind a stack of tires for a statement on the banality of commuting. It's a nice rejoinder to car commercials, which always make driving so exciting, subversive and sexy. Most people have Dusty's experience with the Daily Commute and here it is. I think if he had had more time and painted some abstract colors behind the stamped statements, that would have been more eye-popping and would have made the tire tracks that more obtrusive. But that's just me.

Young's robot is well-made but doesn't say anything about cars, machinery or even robots--since it can't move or do anything useful or entertaining. He calls it "Trophy" and cruises through this one. He and Dusty are safe. At least Dusty still has his eyelashes and brows. Win!

Bottom three: Kymia's diorama, Key to the Universe burns its lightbulb out during the show and looks like a shadowy world of nothing. Lola's paper, crystallized metal and pretentiously titled glass installation is confusing and says nothing as well. Saddest of all is Michelle's car grills, which are cartoonish but not cartoonish enough to please the judges. She had started to make a new piece one hour before the show, smearing her hands, face and finger-written words on frosted glass to portray the steamier side of parking a car, but nixed that piece when the other artists convinced her to use the bright red, pop-eyed grill. She really choked. If she had only stuck with her intestinal guy! Simon de Pury has strrrruck agaaaain! I love that guy but sometimes he freaks the artists out with his charmingly polite put-downs of their works-in-progress.

The judges get the how-could-you-do-this-us? edit, coming across as harsh and well, overly judgmental. I mean, they only had a day, judges! Anyway, Kymia's safe because she's done good work in the past and won a challenge already. Although Jerry Saltz accuses her of "over-building" her project as she's done before. We never heard that criticism until now so we don't know which works he's referring to. The editors went in this direction to make Jerry look harsh. Lola is safe but not without Bill Powers sternly admonishing her to not bring them the same old shit every week because, "we don't want to have this conversation again." You were all praising her for words and lines on paper before and now you're against it--bad parenting, Bill.

Bill also chastises Michelle, saying you can't just put googly eyes on something and have it work. Oh, but I disagree! Sadly, Michelle is out, although I must say, her paper-craftiness combined with her determination to subvert that craftiness through sexual and scatological subject matter, was probably destined for an offing anyway. According to Jerry's blog, Jerry had a conniption fit over this outcome and there was much ranting and raving on his part, but eventually he had to agree: this was a sad, sad Fiat. And then, of course, she's called upon to explain herself, having been in an auto accident (which she's already addressed); how could she have made such an impersonal piece?

Guest judge Liz Cohen has photographed herself in bikinis while working on automobiles, so this episode pretty much had something for everyone. Just no more Michelle. No more fetish paper-craft! No more poop art! I will miss Michelle.

And now for the Work of Art inspiration piece of the week. Sorry--no sculptural work--I have limited space and auto parts. Judges and Internet commenters alike all chimed in after this episode, saying, "Michelle should have stuck with the window-licking body-part guy!" and "Michelle should have gone with her sexy fogged-up window idea!" I tried to combine all her concepts in one go here with my own unique spin, of course.

Do I win the $25,000?

Next week: Selling art on the street and, you knew it would come to this (congratulations Bravo producers), Lola gets naked!

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