Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn

Jeanne gives her final crit of Miles's "disappointing" print work, Peregrine's "country fair" installation, and Abdi's winning sculptures.

on Aug 11, 2010

All three artists pulled off solid shows. But many, many congratulations to Abdi who imagined bombs from a wick, a Saint from dirt, and delivered to us a few broken angels from home.

Following our crit, the three finalists are shown seated on the couch looking somewhat dejected. In recollection, our final crits were rather tough, so this makes sense. Yet what aired tonight highlighted our positive comments. The show presents us saying lots of expletive "wows" and "beautiful," as we circled their exhibitions. A feel good moment for everyone!

All is "Fair Game." During the opening, Peregrine's rooms were crowded and projected a party atmosphere. In contrast, Miles exhibition space was quiet, and somewhat empty of viewers. Had we judged based on artist activation and audience participation, Peregrine would have won, hands down. She had hired the two fair assistants - a young Vanna White brushing the pony's hair and offering the comb to onlookers, and a velvet-jacketed dude serving up cotton candy. The room smelled sweet, a delicious mixture of wax and cotton candy.

Both Peregrine and Abdi used sculptural molds to different effect. Beyond the sensory overload, Peregrine's single encased wax head was a tender muse, vaguely recalling the Medardo Rosso's "Street Urchins." Her most successful work, a large photo of the twin fawns, was found in a final side room. Peregrine spent the bulk of her show money having this work professionally photographed. Make no mistake, she directed it! Offered up as a side show in a fair, it mentally took center stage. While she came into the competition as a drafts person, it was with her sculpture and this photo that she gained new strength. But ultimately, I was not into the "country fair" concept. Like Miley Cyrus returning to her horse farm, it read as slightly cheesy, nostalgic and middle of the road.

Miles' show was the most disappointing, especially as many assumed his win. His black and white prints certainly looked attractive and were intelligently displayed. He might make a better hire to Chris Wool than SJP, Dad. Yet, his tidy show had the air of what it was supposed to do, or something seen before. His cell phone surveillance of White Castle was sincere, and a fantastic starting place. Glad he took himself out of the studio in search of inspiration. He got lucky, and found a key - having photographed a homeless man, who died a few days later, yet without a public obituary. His homage to this forgotten man was moving, yet the visual drama went missing. He kept himself at arm's length, removing his subject of male old age and poverty with each magnification. I wanted to return to the intensity seen in his portrait of Nao from the first challenge.

In the crit, I thought his pixilated detailed prints read as folk abstractions, and Bill thought computer grids. We had an interesting discussion about his grandmother, and quilt making. I looked for blemishes in his prints, something I admire in Warhol paintings. He was enthused to make more prints, but I wanted him to stop. A single black hole spray had aura like his red spay from the junk yard challenge. There was also his recordings at White Castles to respond to, and then I made an off-color riff playing with words - white noise, White Castle...and so on. Silence.

Abdi's sculptures won him the competition. And, the lovely David LaChapelle (in his Che Guevara t-shirt, which a Producer insisted be turned inside out) shed a tear! Luminous being, giant seraph athletes fallen to earth ... writing now makes me think of Wim Wenders contemporary clad angels in "Wings of Desire," which, like Abdi's work, displayed its own bit of 'street.' There are plenty of figurative sculptors in vogue right now, who will anticipate Abdi's show at the Brooklyn Museum. Last decade we celebrated the Posthuman, but now we have the Statuesque (see Public Art Fund, too). Abdi's paintings also showed him pushing his painting practice, using an inverted color scheme for one of his self-portraits, for example.

Finally, I was moved by the camaraderie amongst the contestants, alongside the entire team of Magical Elves. I am glad to have played a small part in this experiment, and hope Bravo continues it in one form or another. Your blog comments and critiques have created an unlikely space for art debate, and for this I am grateful, if a bit amused (OK, so I love having an art blog, my first, on the same site as Bethenny and Danielle.) Thank you for watching the show, and for eating our cotton candy....