Figure Eights and Fast Lanes

Bill thinks Michelle should have gone with the steamed-up window piece.

Car culture and contemporary art go together like chocolate and peanut butter. Richard Prince, Matthew Barney, Josephine Meckseper, and John Chamberlain all have used actual car parts in their sculpture. Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Jeff Koons, and Frank Stella famously painted BMWs. Even beyond that though, could Robert Frank ever have shot his landmark book The Americans without automobiles? Art essayist Dave Hickey says some of his best writing is done (albeit in his head I gather) while driving down an open stretch of highway. So let's talk about the FIAT challenge. Kind of shocking that no one decided to play with the logo, right? Liz Cohen might be our best guest judge this season, and I'm always reminded that artists who teach wind up offering the most constructive feedback during the crits. In retrospect I wish we had given Dusty more credit for his tire tread text speaking to the commuter nightmare. And if only Michelle had shown her steamed-up car windows, I'm pretty sure she wouldn't have gone home.

Young's robot went limp on the wall for me when I saw the episode on TV. In person the scale of it -- slightly larger than life -- helped save his work from elimination. I agree with Jerry that Lola has invented a new style of drawing unique to her hand, but it gets muddled when she throws in everything but the kitchen sink -- make that car battery -- during these challenges. Sara's muffler of solitude had me Googling the word "sublimation," but it was too hard to work that into our discussion. How cool that a pair of skinned car seats could operate as stand-ins for a father and daughter road trip? What a strange leap of logic to make when Sarah K. declared, "That's me and my dad." Almost brought me to tears, probably because it felt so sincere.

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!