Child's Play

Simon shares which of the children's works were his favorites.

The guest judges who every week lend their experience to the contestants are an important element in the success of this show. So it was great for instance last week to have Rob Pruitt being one of the judges for the pop art challenge. I had first come across his work back in the early '90s when I saw a pyramid of drink cans covered with great logos that Rob had done with his then artistic partner under the name of Pruitt and Early. It was exhibited in the museum that Asher Edelman had opened in Lausanne, Switzerland. On November 7 in New York, I will have the privilege to conduct an auction of contemporary art to benefit the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation. A number of artists have generously offered fine works for that sale. The auction actually kicks off with a work by Rob Pruitt done in 2009 entitled 'Ladies and Gentleman…(Art Awards Penguins).' It is very pop in flavor, and I love its humor. The same sale will also include the works of other great Work of Art guest judges for forthcoming episodes of Season 2, such as Richard Phillips and Adam McEwen.

In this week's episode the guest judge is none other than Sarah Jessica Parker, co-producer of Work of Art. The minute she appeared, her sizzling charisma nearly set my TV screen on fire. Seeing China Chow with an entirely new hair style must also have contributed to the joy of the contestants that morning. It was wonderful to observe the artists meeting their much younger counter parts. Children's drawings are always imbued with a wonderful freshness, directness, and positive energy. Two junior artists struck me as being particularly talented. The work done by Kei was very sophisticated and would in my view have earned the victory for its author in case there also had been a competition amongst the junior artists. Dusty clearly rose to the challenge and used this work as the point of departure for his best work in this competition so far. The complete change of scale had a lot to do with the success of his piece. The other work by one of the very young artists that struck me the most was the text piece by Zelda. The choice of the words, their colors, their visual impact made it an invigorating work to look at. In this case Sara who was assigned to do a work to go along with it did not rise to the occasion. Being confronted with the work done by what would seem to be a happy child made her reminisce about her own experience at around the same age. These memories were clearly very sad ones, which I could feel during my studio visit and as was clearly apparent while watching this episode. Rehashing that period of her life seemed to trouble her so much that she clearly struggled to do a work that would be a good enough pendant to the one she was assigned to incorporate. So much so that she flirted with elimination.

Michelle was also assigned a very good work when she was given the three striking pairs of piercing eyes done by John. She used it as a point of departure for the strongest work she has done in this competition along her winning work done for the first episode.

The one work that I view as by far the best one by any artist so far in this competition is the drawing that Kymia did with the little girl eating the carrot. It is an accomplished drawing that looks much better in the flesh than any television image could ever render. It deservedly brought Kymia the victory in this episode. I am very happy that Phillips de Pury & Company will be able to sell this work at auction and that the proceeds will go to Studio in the School, a charity that does invaluable work with children and art.As always I am sad to see any contestant being eliminated. It clearly must have been tough for the judges to make their choice. I felt the Sucklord was genuinely much more concerned about not letting down the junior artist whose work had been assigned to him, than about what the judges might say of his work. His not wanting to disappoint his junior artist partner did not prevent him from producing a work that also had a close brush with elimination. His impassioned and collegial plea to the judges on behalf of Tewz did, luckily for the Sucklord, little to prevent the latter from being eliminated from the competition.

An Alternate Universe

Bill loved that Kymia's exhibit brought viewers to a new world.

I remember last year questioning why rock stars receive standing ovations. Athletes, ballet dancers, and actors, too, but where is the applause for artists? Now I know this might sound hypocritical coming from a guy who told Sucklord that Mr. Brainwash after a lobotomy would have made more compelling street art, but I really do mean it. I could never withstand the pressure cooker these artists subjected themselves to by participating on Work of Art, and I commend each of them on their bravery. 

I told Young during the finale crits that his installation reminded me how we all live three lives: our public life, our private life, and our secret life. His projected biography interweaving Korean family traditions with his first generation experience as a proud gay man was about as all American as it gets. Seeing him pay tribute to his late father echoed a famous quote from Ayn Rand about our mortality when she said, "It's not I who shall die, but the world which will end." Now that I think about it, the same sentiment probably applies to reality TV competitions. In Young's case, he mined his father's death for all the material he could get, and it rang out as personal, political, and (like Kymia's show) semi-mythological. It's a tough tightrope to tread on the path to universal appeal and the abyss of the generic is a bottomless pit. 

Sara hinted at some of her personal struggles with the mattress full of hypodermic needles of which KAWS remarked, "It kind of makes bedbugs seem inviting." She also constructed a barrier of handwritten fears hung on a makeshift clothesline blocking your entrance into her show, a limbo stick of self-doubt every gallery viewer was forced to overcome. I had hoped Sara would embrace her mesmerizing approach to watercolors, which garnered so much attention during the season from her very first gallery show of the woman being slow-roasted to the sellout challenge where her portraits did gangbusters. In my head I envisioned Sarah painting massive canvases highlighting her signature style. 

When Kymia followed that impulse for her finale show, look at the results. Wow! Aliens, twins, ancient Egyptians -- Kymia created a whole alternate universe with its own unknowable history. I urge everyone to go check out her exhibition in person when it opens at The Brooklyn Museum. How cool that her work will be hanging in the same building as Eva Hesse and Alice Neel.

As for Season 3? We will have to see if our Work of Art worked for Bravo. Otherwise I hope we might be remembered as the Arrested Development of reality TV. I'll miss you guys!