Originally I wasn’t going to even bother writing about this audacious show that promises to find the so-called “next great artist.” But people kept asking what I thought, so, uh, sigh, here it goes… What an embarrassment to the true artists that are struggling to truly create the world’s most beautiful art, who’s life constantly mocked by the mainstream and Hollywood industry that only perpetuates inaccurate, disgraceful stereotypes. Haaha, jk.
1. The Concept and the Means
It didn’t take many episodes to prove that the whole concept of a “reality” TV show about art/artists is absurd, but that is part of the fun of being an artist and watching it. I mean insiders like me can actually laugh at things the masses don’t notice-the misrepresentations of Artist archetypes, their critique responses, etc.
The challenge of making a TV show about art for the mass American audience—and yes I’m singling out the mass American audience—is that American TV viewers don’t actually want to think so the producers are forced to create shows that feed the audience what it is already familiar with; its self created conservative stereotypes and clichés. Warhol said it, “it’s not American to think, it’s american to buy [consume]” so people don’t watch TV to think, but for other reasons (entertainment). Thinking is messy, its uncertain, its not sexy. Cliches are sexy. If you want to learn about art, how its made and what it means, watch Art 21. It’s an excellent show, but for those who already have a curiosity about art, and I wish more people would watch it, I’m still trying to nail down why that’s not the case. Probably because it’s too analytical and educational. The challenge of putting good art into a mass-media like TV or newspapers which targets the masses is the conflict of elitism (for lack of a better word) and populism. We can’t expect to have average people to understand such complex contemporary art that many full-time artists can’t comprehend or relate to. And art is their job! That aside, Work of Art has/had the potential to be an entertaining educational show if it wasn’t for the MTV inspired ultra-fast-choppy, ADD cuts, movements, only the jist approach to filming and audio editing who’s main intent is to create mystery and a hope to get a closer look in the coming scene. This glossing over and breezing through everything really disappointed me—they overdid it to the point where it was hard to watch. How many second of artwork did they actually show? And 1 hr to get to know 14 people in the 1st episode, AND see the making of a challenge? The editing was so manipulated I wondered if they were all actors, or their interviews guided. I feel the producers didn’t care for the artists’ development and achievement because they need to make a quick buck. But if they cared, it wouldn’t be on Bravo, and it wouldn’t make money. I still think they could’ve found more creative ways to create entertaining drama and suspense while educating those that want an insight into an artist’s mind. For example they could have shown more of the home life like in the Real World where people’s inner thoughts and motives come out in ways that make for fun TV.
Having said this, I wonder what non-artwork people think, maybe they love the show and I have heard them tell me they watch it and like it. This is great because that’s who it’s made for.
I watch Russian TV once in a while, and although they are mostly stuck in the past, which results in TV shows even more absurd than Work of Art, albeit in a diff. way, there are some shows that actually have people discussing culture or some educational content. they are more slow in filming and aren’t jumpy like Bravo and MTV. There is a show called “Cultural Revolution” where in each episode two guests and audience debate a question for instance, “Is it a must for real art to be impossible to understand?” it was very educational, but it would die on mainstream American TV.
I also think that visual art and the art genres Bravo is using are incompatible for the TV medium. Its hard to put up an image of a painting for 5 seconds and not lose part of the audience. Painting, photography, and much of sculpt/installation are static forms, whereas TV viewers want movement.
The best thing about this show is no matter how true to artists or art-making it is, it nevertheless brings an awareness of art to the world. I just hope people will realize it doesn’t accurately portray real artists.
To conclude, the concept of the show is entertainment, not education, not seeing great art etc.
2. Jerry Saltz, the critic.
Jerry says worthwhile things with the seconds that he gets. I wish they let him and other judges talk more, Jerry is great at using enticing colorful language with an enthusiastic tone. He himself is an untrained artist, and this is perfect for the show. He said that his peers warned him that doing this show would ruin his career, and people who say those kinds of delusional things just baffle my mind. Those lame-oes just have gotta swallow their pride, become more humble and take on a challenge like this, make the best of it and not think in an elitist way. Kudos to Jerry.
3. Artists on the Show.
Nothing wrong with being on the show. You get to make art, be on TV and experiment with acting, practice talking art in front of the camera, and you have a chance to win something great, what else do you need to say yes? Now that I think about it I wish I would have taken the call seriously. If anything it’s a fun art camp with publicity. I don’t understand why more artists didn’t try out, and why all the artists that made it onto the show are not good, with the exception of Miles, Nao, and the Asian guy that got eliminated early. These three are the only ones that of a minute interest to me because they are actually aware of the creative process and can think visually and talk about it in words. Miles it truly verse in the visual language, and he is likely to win even though he is nowhere near the title of “Great Artist.” Judith’s personal work outside of the show is actually not bad. With the exception of a few works, everything that has been made on the show is at best worthy of an undergraduate’s senior thesis. Most of the things made on the show are descent freshman in art school projects.
4. Jaclyn Santos
Jaclyn Santos is hot, and it’s good to keep her on because she probably pulls in a number of male viewers. She was a senior when I went to MICA for a semester, and I remember her being in the fashion show and everyone knew of her. Her personal work on the other hand is very questionable, and something I wouldn’t look at other than to appreciate the provocative sexual poses and subjects. She is an interesting one. People bashed her for being gorgeous and attempting to make art before the show started. She has a surprisingly timid personality considering her natural beauty. She seems to feel guilty for being beautiful, and extra cautious to not flaunt it. I advise otherwise considering her work and ideas, and in order to bring more attention to the show and the art world at large. I would advise her to read up on Lady Gaga and Paris Hilton and put the “Show” into “show.” As Jerry told her, her timidness prevents her from saying what she wants to say in her work, like in the faint book cover where she photographed herself half nude back to camera and made the painting very faint. One of her pieces in the Audi challenge revealed that there might be creative juices flowing about her head.
Stereotypes are created by people, for people and it’s a conservative way to make a show for a conservative time about something people don’t know much about. And people should be free to stereotype artists and make a show about it. Let them. Let them make a show that perpetuates stereotypes. And if people enjoy it, then let them laugh at artists, what’s the difference? I don’t care if they missportray or mock artists. Shit I’ll do it myself for laughs and giggles.
The challenges are cool, and I would probably not survive past the first few rounds because I can’t make art about what someone tells me. I would definitely get eliminated after the round where they had to illustrate a book cover. I suck at illustration. The dumb thing about the challenges is the time. You just can’t make something good in that short of time. Art is a very slow process. It may take years for an artist to figure out their vision—what they are making art about, why, what forms to use and to perfect this into their “style.”