Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn

From Miles' macabre portrait of Nao to Amanda's decorative portrait of Jaime Lynn, Jeanne offers her critique of this week's portraits.

on Jun 8, 20100

 

OK, so I have never been on TV or written a blog, and I am not even on Facebook (joining might mean being a jettisoned into Jerry's 5,000 friend world, where I might stay). I am lucky to get through my emails in a day...

By way of introduction, I own a gallery and run an art advisory service, spending my days looking at artwork. I do this for a living, mostly in private. My pleasure is talking to artists both in and out of their studios. On this show our conversations, for the sake of good TV, are whittled down into small bites (ugh). Jerry, Bill, China and our guest judges continued much of this dialogue even off the set. And, Simon waited in the judges lounge (his mobile office) to gab enthusiastically about the works, post viewings. We often joke that he has a half vote. As judges we are never invited into the studios, and have little contact with the artists, other than during the critiques.

In the process of getting to know Bravo, I have admittedly become a bit of a TV nut. Something is in the air when Friday Night Lights’ own cerebral quarterback, Matt Saracen, turned out to be a promising artist (his portfolio got him into the Art Institute of Chicago). Kick-off time:

Judith's Proud Pussy painting, a wordplay portrait of Jaclyn, was razor sharp and among the few conceptual works presented. While it dated itself a bit, I am sorry that this painting did not make the cut for the final round. Judith shows super power energy, and will be one to watch.

Nao's verbal assaults are edited to perfection. She comes to the show as one of the more established and practiced artists. Her medium, however, is video and performance, the former not permitted on the show. Rather than putting so much labor into the elaborate ink drawing, she might have fared better going on instinct. Nao's brand of body politics alongside Judith's 90s conceptualism might together need an update. But both Nao and Judith have a strong image bank from which to cull and translate into something new.

Ryan has presented himself as a Caravaggio-like character from a made-for-TV miniseries. So he is perfectly cast here. But a painter who aspires towards the masters becomes better with time, the skills taking years and years to refine. In John Currin and Elizabeth Peyton (two great contemporary portrait painters) we have seen a revival of realist style that merges old master with hack commercial portraiture. And while we look for a fusion of the esteemed past with the vulgar present, does Ryan have the conceptual rigor and cleverness to pull it off? This competition will test his ability to react quickly both with his brush and mind.

 

36 comments
sp
sp

Thank you to Sarah Jessica Parker! Great show, cannot wait for next week. Best part is the process and what the author is trying to accomplish!

Marcia Tucker
Marcia Tucker

"But if the portraiture's main goal is to represent a recognizable person, then her decorative portrait of Jaime Lynn was hopeless."

The painting that lost was indeed the weakest work, but the reasoning you give for its being "hopeless" is even weaker. Why would the main goal of portraiture be to represent a recognizable person? A possible goal, but not the main goal, and not even a goal that would concern every artist or art lover. There is such a strong presence of abstract and conceptual portraiture in the history of art that to make such an "if, then" statement, especially as your last word on the subject, makes you seem even more naive than Erik.

In your own words, "...in today's world, where images (and information) are so accessible on the web and Museums are found in most cities, or within driving distance, this excuse will not fly with any of us."

William Wray
William Wray

I think you guys are doing a pretty good job of making a potentially boring subject as interesting as you can, but as many have said I really think the copycat nature of the format is a big weakness. You want original artistic ideas? How about original ideas for a format? That chiding aside, I so very pleased to see a show about art and I send you my entreaty that the shows gets enough ratings to continue and God bless Sara Jessica Parker! As an artist who is often frustrated that conceptual art is so overwhelmingly dominates the art world I was surprised to see so many artists who are emblematical or are comfortable with representational art. I’d like to see more of a balanced cast between the folks who fill a room with laundry and are hailed by critics as godhead (to a confused public) and pit them in a more desperate clash of disciplines that is the long stantdng debate in the art world of idea VS. Skill set. Conflict equals ratings and debate.

L Mario
L Mario

I thought the show lacked orginality. It pretty much followed the template set by Project Runway. A hodge podge soup of art type people ranging from the experience older artists to the hip/hyped out of MFA college types. There is no doubt that your cast of characters are talented and the judges have an extensive knowledge on contemporary art, but for me, something seems to be missing. I do like your energy, enthusiasm, and astute insight to the art you viewed. I believe the artists are very fortunate to have you as a judge.

keyboardmaniac
keyboardmaniac

WOW! What a great show! This has been a great art weekend for me. I viewed a retrospective on artist Elizabeth Murray earlier today, then happened upon Work of Art. I was expecially impressed with Miles -- the "winner" in spite of his last-minute difficulties. My best wishes to all the contestants.

Sculptress
Sculptress

Jeanne, really enjoyed the show. Thought that your critique was intelligent, articulate and insightful. Very enjoyable to listen to and read an honest, thoughtful analysis, too. I appreciate that you omitted the pretentiousness that typically surrounds this genre. You might soon find yourself running the show. Congratulations. Bravo fans can now learn from your experience and enjoy your success with you.

Crusty Crone
Crusty Crone

Loved the show. It was great... looking forward to the rest of it. (Fortunately for me, I'm not an art snob so I can just enjoy it all.)

pushpass
pushpass

First off, I'm an electrical engineer, but I have a fascination with reality shows like these that highlights the creative process and have contestants with real skills and talent. I'm not an art lover per se, but I do appreciate artwork that is more representational. Hopefully this show will illuminate the allure and process behind more abstract and conceptual art for me.

Having said that, my favorite work of the 1st episode is Naos "portrait". It's minimalist and conceptual, and if you're friend of Miles, you immediately get what Nao is trying to say. But I do agree, that if you see this art for the first time in a gallery, you definitely not think it's portraiture.

I also like Abdis portrait of Ryan. It's the most visually striking of all the portraits. What you take out from the picture is Ryan's poseur and devil may care attitude. Interesting to see Abdi's first impression of Ryan is correct, as the viewer becomes familiar with Ryan.

I don't think Marks work qualified as top three. My response is meh. It's well executed and the image is arresting, but everyday we're bombarded with hundreds of all these commercial images from just advertising. I'm sure I've seen these images before.

Sad to see Amanda go, since she is a self-described abstract artist. I really would like to learn more how abstract artist think. But I agree with the judges critique. Also her assesment of her subject is somewhat superficial (Maybe that's the point, my subject is superficial). My subject likes patterns, flowers, jewerlry, big hair, so I'll create a wallpaper of leaves over a blue background. I think if she incorporated her subject fascination with fairytale and princess drawing into the image, and commented on that, it would have worked better.

Anyway definitely watching this show.

Spectator
Spectator

As a mother who watched with amazement as my daughter went through art school, I'm looking forward to the rest of the show and competition. I am always amazed at my daughter's creativity and all the hard work and long hours that goes into creating art. Watching the creative process should make for a very captivating show.

TheBestCookerNYC
TheBestCookerNYC

Wow, great Kick-Off, first episode and Blog, keep up the good work. I hope the show continues to shine.

Of course the entire first season has already been shot and (I assume) edited. I hope people that make constructive (and perhaps not so constructive) criticism realize that everyone involved in this first season is/was new to the whole world of reality television and realize than none of their suggestions will have any effect on this first season's shooting/outcome, all of that will have to wait until the next season. I have a feeling artists will be lining up for a shot to be on next season's show and am confident that line will be as crazy as the line (was) to sit with Marina Abramovic at MoMA.

Kudos!

Ravenscroft
Ravenscroft

"I'm not so sure that Eric's protests that he is an "untrained" artist were excuses, as much as naive defensiveness. Anybody who has had any formal art training knows the terror of your very first critique, let alone on national television! I hope his inclusion in the show was not a cynical, "let's have a wild card" decision, because if he winds up being ripped to shreds (like I suspect he is), it will represent the worst of reality television - witnessing people treating each other like crap."--Jeanie G

Exactly.

LaMar's art stuff!
LaMar's art stuff!

Hi guys, my name is LaMar Johnson, and I too an a starving artist. How does one get on your show?

Lilly Smith
Lilly Smith

I thought you were definitely the best judge on the show, you had great opinions and you really know hat you are talking about. You definitely have a great eye for art. You were very articulate and had amazing clarity. You were no question about it sounded the most educated and intelligent. I am very excited to watch upcoming episodes great great job!

Virginia of NY
Virginia of NY

Thank you for taking the time to write a thoughtful entry. It's easy to be cynical about reality television, and this subject is a tough one. I was afraid it would crash and burn. But the show is wonderful. And I think it will do a servicable job of introducing art, or expanding our way of thinking about art, to a public who too often believe it to be irrelevant to our lives. (I loved Sarah Jessica's "mission statement" in which she managed to insert a comment about government support of the arts. Yay!)

I, too, was sorry to see Amanda go, but ultimately I agree with your decision. I didn't object to her doing an abstract piece, but it just didn't seem to fit her subject. Maybe she was working from the woman's description of herself, but it certainly wasn't the woman I saw on the screen nor the woman I saw in her own artwork (sorry, I've forgotten her name.) Actually I wish the first challenge had included the self-portraits. If Amanda's powerful self-portrait had been thrown into the mix, perhaps the judging would have reached a different conclusion.

One more thing. I know you're new to blogging, but let me tell you that the quality of your readers' comments is miles above the usual responses. There is disagreement and criticism, but it's articulate and reasoned. There's almost no slamming of personalities (normally a staple of these sites). Keep it up -- you've got a winner.

LNWYD
LNWYD

The program has the lurid fascination of a car wreck, but one of the contestants was a student of mine in college and I feel compelled to watch.

Title reflects the silliness of 1949 article in "Life" magazine that asked of Jackson Pollock, "Is this America's Greatest Living Artist?"

Program functions nearly like art school. Different challenges represent different kinds of production. Focus will be on technical skills, challenges of various mediums, and familiarity with art history. Not many but a few good insights in "Portrait" episode.

I realize that this is a Bravo reality program...but I hope that real and serious discussion of art and art values will take a somewhat more central position in subsequent episodes.

Laura Wilson
Laura Wilson

I'm so excited about this show! What fun.

I was disappointed with Eric's first work, but I believe he can do better. Perhaps the biggest problem with untrained artists is not that they don't know how to make art, but they don't know how to talk about art. Hopefully, he will improve in both areas.

I was surprised to read your positive impression of Judith's portrait. I thought as a portrait it was primarily conceptual, and reflected herself more than her subject. It seems like it meets the requirements of a portrait as poorly as Nao's did, and at least Nao included a portrait (though not very well).

I enjoyed the critiques, and was pleased that they reflected a real understanding of art, and not a cheesy dumbed-down kind of art.

I hope this show is able to encompass much of art history in their challenges, from traditional to conceptual, illustrative and expressive, representational and abstract, etc. If that is the case, then the real challenge of the show will be versatility.

ContempDraftswoman
ContempDraftswoman

It's great to have a window into a serious curator's point of view, which is why I so shocked at Nao's behavior. I thought she was very disrespectful to the three of you. The process was understandable, but presented with little or no foundation. There are a million artists out there who would love a chance to get some real criticism on what they need to do to "make it work". And even though Judith is well-established, I thought the portrait Jaclyn did was almost a little comical. On first impressions Judith is a bit of a grump and cynical. Yet, she expected Jaclyn to just take "Proud Pussy", which was easy and a little boring.

On a positive note, I thought Abdi's piece was reminiscent of Chuck Close. Especially with the cigarette hanging out of his mouth. And observing Miles' process made me feel better about my own need to clean/organize before working on a piece.

And I totally agree with your statement on Eric. With plenty of bookstores, libraries, internet access, he'd soon find out that "outsider" has it's own place free of excuses. There's even film about it like "In the Realms of the Unreal".

Anyway, can't wait for next week!

Darren Daz Cox
Darren Daz Cox

The show is pretty good for the medium it is in and should be fun to see what happens.

I really hope you can get Yoko Ono to guest on a show and really have the artists think out of the box! As Gauguin said "Art is either plagiarism or revolution."

I agree with the conclusion on the death portrait, that was a piece of art I have never seen before, even though the elements were familiar, which is a good sign to me, and a good sign that the judges are competent.

Why would you define the present as "vulgar"? There has been almost a century of everything from Piero Manzoni's cans of you-know-what, Duchamp's "Fountain", "white on white" paintings etc. Heck it's been over 30 years since punk rock changed the art world. Vulgar really doesn't define 'the present' in my opinion as vulgar implies that people are somehow less moral or educated than in the past and I would say that it is the opposite. At the very least, we have decades of defining obscenity behind us and I would say that we are actually just bored with 'shock value' art these days. These are not vulgar times, heck, look at how tame most of the artists on the show are! I think we all know someone in a ceramics class that make a "titty tile" haha!

The present is also a time of exponential growth of real outsider art, not just people who don't want to get a real job to support themselves and their art or even educate themselves like Erik but people generally not considered 'serious artists'.

Look on art sites like Deviantart dot com or even etsy dot com to see art by people who often have no pretentions, millions of them!!! By getting feedback and attention from the internet a whole generation of fine artists have grown up leaving the art gallery scene on a parallel track.

I like the show but the idea that you can manufacture a 'great artist' is pretty hilarious, especially if some of those artists are already comfortable just striving for realistic portraits! My guess is that Abdi and John will be bought out and will go commercial and will rarely stretch from this current level, the portrait people will just make a comfortable living on the side, Erik will make a decision to either work hard at art or quit it altogether, Nao will always find a way to not be commercially successful or accepted because that IS her art statement, Miles might stick with it as he was the only one who seemed to let go and trust in his ability to do something meaningful even when his conscious plans fell through, maybe Ryan will too but realism can be a curse as while it shows a skill it can also be dull if you have no narrative or flavor to back it up, and the rest will just settle in some comfortable job but never risk losing what they already have.

The Miles is MINE
The Miles is MINE

I'm pissed off at Miles for being straight. The only reason I watch these shows is to obsess over the cutest boy, and dream about being LUVAS. I think its a work of the Devil that the cute art boy on the Bravo reality show, is straight. So straight he doesn't even know who Sarah Jessica Parker is. GOD.

Viewer#243
Viewer#243

"But if the portraiture's main goal is to represent a recognizable person, then her decorative portrait of Jaime Lynn was hopeless."

Firstly, I honestly REALLY disliked Amanda's work (I didn't see the 'conceptual essence of her subject' that some people have been talking about). But this just brings me to my next point: This show isn't about finding a 'great artist'- it mostly just seems interested in propogating the public's (often antiquated) idea of what "art" is (evidenced by the quote above and the nature of the challenge itself). The idea that a portrait must "represent a recognizable person" or that it must "capture the subject's essence" is such an antiquated idea that its laughable in a show supposedly about "contemporary art". These ideas throw out hundreds of years of art history, Robert Rauschenberg anyone?

That's all fine and dandy though, because this show isn't about "art" - at least, not in a contemporary sense - the show is about the lingering ghosts of art history. Which is great for most people (that's who the show is for) - because, in the end, its just easier that way. God forbid they see/experience something that's actually challenging and new - the two often go together. Thanks, but I'll stick with ART:21...

Sharitz
Sharitz

I was highly anticipating this show and was fairly happy with the first episode... however... I'm not sure sure art is not so subjective that it cannot be judged fairly. Will this be an experiment in Art Critic preference or mastery of art technique? Will it focus on construction and technical difficulty or simply the whims of a few judges? I personally think the taking of a photo and running it through the printer and swiping a section of silk-screening lacked skill or any real technical ability. Sticking plastic on it just seemed so cliche'. Sorry. I guess I'm approaching my feelings from the viewpoint that far too many individual (in the modernist age thrust upon us since the Academic School was booted) have copped out of having any real art skills by simply thinking an IMAGE of any type works. I like to think that ARTISTS still can render a drawing and have knowledge of color and design. Now let me go create art with my Soup Can. Ugh.

Viewerjl
Viewerjl

Great show! I really enjoyed it and am looking forward to the next shows.

BigLittleWolf @ DailyPlateOfCrazy
BigLittleWolf @ DailyPlateOfCrazy

As an avid contemporary art lover, I'm delighted with Episode 1 of this show. And even more delighted that you are taking the time for further critique here, in this venue.

We realize that a great deal is lost in the editing, but there are so many miles to travel in order to make contemporary art more accessible to a wider American audience. I hope many will come to these blogs for elaboration, providing context and process not only for your decisions, but the artists' concepts and process as well.

I thought Amanda's portrait fell flat, given the assigned task, but I was sorry to see the one self-proclaimed abstract artist leave so soon. Figurative work may be more easily penetrated by most, but we need to give entry points on conceptual work and abstraction, so both will seem less unapproachable.

I hope we'll see more opportunities for both, with the talent that remains to come.

Looking forward to more of the show, and more here, from judges and host.

BigLittleWolf @ DailyPlateOfCrazy

MOXY313
MOXY313

I'm neither artist nor critic, but I love when art moves me and that happened several times last night. Loved both Abdi's and Mile's work and especially Mile's methodical mysterious approach.

Thank you Bravo and Sara Jessica Parker for this great show.

John Hastings
John Hastings

It is much to early in the game to call John Currin a great contemporary painter. He is an extremely successful painter. Jeanne do you know the difference?

His flair for the grotesque is the hook that has gained him an audience. When that appeal fades, I fear his present stature will evanesce as well.

The work already feels dated, didactic, overdetermined and undernourished.

The woods are full of these high concept aestheticians. They flare up with a bright light and vaporize just as quickly. Currin is a mere soundbite in the white noise blandissimmo of the 'contemporary' zeitgeist.

chris N
chris N

Hey Jeanne, you seem to be the most articulate, knowledgeable, and open of the judges, who I thought, overall, were quite conservative, and seemingly clueless about conceptualism and abstraction. Oh well. It's just a TV show. I always hope for a viable presentation of contemporary art in a world that is pretty much unaware of it, so it is a start, albeit in the reality world that makes everything a contest. Just one minor quibble - Elizabeth Peyton? Really? Her work looks like a high school portfolio, is not great technically, and is conceptually vapid. A better role model for Ryan, please.

Jeanie G.
Jeanie G.

I'm not so sure that Eric's protests that he is an "untrained" artist were excuses, as much as naive defensiveness. Anybody who has had any formal art training knows the terror of your very first critique, let alone on national television! I hope his inclusion in the show was not a cynical, "let's have a wild card" decision, because if he winds up being ripped to shreds (like I suspect he is), it will represent the worst of reality television - witnessing people treating each other like crap.

LogoLady
LogoLady

It was so exciting to see this show. Since I am an artist and designer, it is of particular interest. Unlike other reality shows, I know a lot more about the art world and artists' different approaches to work.

Since I come from the same "scene" as Nao, I did get what she was doing with the Sol LeWitt-inspired diagram of Miles actions, but I agree that she should have incorporated more actual portraiture (a series of photographs... something). I am actually curious how Nao and Judith's work will be regarded because I am not certain how, as Jeanne says "90s" type feminist work is interpreted these days.

Miles' work was stunning, but I also loved Abdi's painting. I am interested to see how Mark will do, as I have worked with so many students who are more commercial-style digital photographers, who would not normally made a foray into the Art World, but, in fact, have a great, powerful sense of image-making.

Alex Sharfman
Alex Sharfman

I really would have liked to see Amanda continue as well, I think that perhaps this challenge put her at a disadvantage and that she would have actually done quite well given the chance to participate in later challenges.

Courtney Harper
Courtney Harper

Well, welcome to the blogging world! I thought your presence on the show (and now, via blog) was shown well, and your comments very supportive and insightful. I, too, am an artist (as mentioned in other comments). How do we find out about future seasons of the show? We need to keep SOMETHING on the air for the up-and-coming artists who manage to thrive despite the dwindling and nearly nonexistent art programs in our schools!

Martin in Cloverdale Oregon
Martin in Cloverdale Oregon

Thanks for your thoughtful comments. Compared to most reality shows, I thought this was intelligent and well produced. Elizabeth Peyton definitely knows how to handle a paint brush with authority. That's one of the things I look for in a painting and strive for myself. Looking forward to next week's episode; based on the previews, sounds like the dialog is going to get tougher.

Eliete Akamine
Eliete Akamine

Hello Jeanne, I am so happy that finally we have some Show about Art.I loved the first epsode and I am very excited to see the next one.It is a great Show.I am an Artist myself and very interested in participate at the next season.What do I have to do?Congratulations and God bless your work!

KathrynUsher
KathrynUsher

I agree that hiding behind the term "outsider" is an excuse. I like self taught (I'm self taught so I was rooting for Eric) better and the terms Brooke Davis Anderson uses - "trickle-down modernism" and "vernacular modernist." She explains that "outsider" can construe self-taught artists as more isolated from modern life than they really are.

I may not have art training but like you said we have access to tons of images daily via TV, Internet, magazines, food packages and even junk mail.

charmcitymomma
charmcitymomma

I love your approach to blogging for the show already -- it gives additional insights into your own responses to the work and the artists, into the judging process, as well as the on-site impact of the work that we do not can (not) appreciate on t.v.

I love that you blog as someone who is thoughtful and knowledgeable, without becoming the stereotype of a New York art "snob". Clearly you are intelligent, an expert and, most importantly, confident, absent of any need to befuddle your readers (and viewers) with esoteric, pseudo-intellectual art world blather. God bless you for that! (And Bravo for choosing you!)

I am watching the show with my 10-year-old daughter, who has been inspired to take out her paints tomorrow - the first day of her summer vacation. We will look forward to reading and learning from your blog each episode. Good luck as the show unfolds...