Thursday, June 17, 2010

"Work of Art"

Last night's episode of "Work of Art: The Next Great Artist" was a whole lot better, I thought, than the unpromising introduction a week ago. Given the very conventional task of making a portrait, within a very restricted time limit, the contestants predictably came up with some pretty cliché'd responses in their first turn out. This week, invited to select materials from glorious piles of assorted electronic junk, and given $100 to spend in a hardware store, they seemed to get more in touch with their creative juices and came up with some pretty interesting assemblage works. The task allowed them greater freedom to let their imagination run riot--and to have more fun.

Continuing problems with the show, for me:

1) The by-now familiar "survivor" format of the reality television show is geared to create purely artificial tensions and brings out the worst aspects of competition under pressure;

2) the hideous background music, scored to heighten tension and stimulate the purely artificial drama;

3) the time constraints. Whoever heard of artists working under such absurd and, again, artificial constraints, which have more to do with the requirements of the "show" than with the creative process;

4) a set-up that in effect reverses what I think of as the artist's way of working, where the impetus and the driving force come from within. I suppose you could argue that the Italian Renaissance artists were given "assignments" by their patrons, clerical or laic. But we are not living in the Renaissance; and their deadlines were not quite so immediate!

5) A judging system which cannot but be influenced by considerations other than the quality of work. I can't believe that race and gender don't play a role in the decisions, not considerations of personalities and the drama they engender.

That said, the judges this week did manage to come up with some slightly more intelligent and penetrating insights. I'll keep watching. In the meantime, I'm wondering if others are keeping an eye on this series, and what they think about it. I'm sure that many artists, like myself, are fully aware that there's a lot of judgment about "art as reality TV" to be suspended before we can start having fun. The show has really little to do with the art world that I know and love. It has more to do with television, which I love a good deal less.

1 comment:

Emily said...

Had I not discovered Jerry Saltz - I am so out of the loop! - on facebook I might not have been as determined to watch. Not a fan of reality tv, or competitions in which someone must be eliminated, judged inadequate and sent packing, I did find quite a bit to enjoy just watching art in process even if artificially induced. It reminds me of art therapy which sets a task - there with a diagnostic purpose - rather than encouraging creative inspiration and all the good that engenders. In any case, your mention of gender and race is what impelled me to comment. I fully expected there to be an emphasis on youth and beauty: it's tv after all. I think gender and race were fairly distributed, but age most assuredly not! The oldest was 20 years older than the next oldest. No talent findable in the 40s and 50s or beyond 60? And there were as I expected the requisite toned, sexy and glamourous females, pretty enough for a stint in Hollywood. I think the line-up was fair and balanced in the way of Fox News. (Faux Noise) In other words, not. On the plus side, so few people are even aware there is art beyond Kinkade perhaps it will invite some curiosity. Planning to watch them all.

-Janice Tieken