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Art in TV Land

Jeanne applauds Miles' youthful enthusiasm and discusses Ryan's polarizing work in this week's junk challenge.


This week's graveyard challenge immediately brought to mind such artists as Nam June Paik, Bruce Nauman, Chris Burden and Jon Kessler. So how cool that Jon came on the show as our first guest artist!? As a teacher of many years, he is used to talking on the spot. He immediately set a mandate for the artists to breathe life into the defunct objects.

Nao has a fighting spirit and good for her that she is unapologetic. The setup of cameras and stopwatch is extreme, and yes, comparable to a college crit. Nao says in this episode that she is sure to be among the top three, and her confidence is applaudable, especially following Mark's cringe-worthy comment last week about being OK with a B+. (Go to Jerry's blog on the New York Magazine's website for more.) Nao's paper cut-out work was a bit too illustrative, and on TV looked like an enormous pop-up book at best, and at worst a paper shredder out of Tim Burton's office. The scene of her hunting for pictures on the roof with the plastic bag headpiece, perhaps reclaiming the plastic from Miles' winning portrait of her, was Nao at her best.

I was the only judge that liked Ryan's unraveled zebra sculpture. To Jerry (my walk around partner) the sculpture was a mess, with the form barely distinguishable. But the shape took on that of a classical pieta, with a sculptural rhythm. His is, however, a bit clownish to watch at work.

Judith needed a better plan. Instead she got caught untying knots. We have all been struck by tunnel vision. Jon Kessler makes tinkering look easy, but it is clearly not.

Trong seemed absent from his crit - blank as his TV screens. When Bill asked Trong if he would include this work in his own retrospective, it was surprising that Trong did not play along, neither defending the work nor claiming defeat. Of course, few artists want to be approached as dead, planning their retrospective. In this time-based contest, a capable artist's fate lies in the strength of a single work. Our judgments are not cumulative.

Nicole's burial diorama, if a bit nostalgic, was especially moving in person. Her careful categorization of the objects obsolescence was touching, even intimate. She took to heart Jon's note that each object holds its history. She built her own archeological site, her mini-grand canyon. She showed sophisticated use of on hand materials - it was not just objects buried in a sandbox. Perhaps if Miles hadn't made the clutch move of sleeping through the viewing, she might have won this one. But probably not.



Miles' open appreciation and thrill over being in the studio is refreshing. Just give him "free beer and tools" and he will stick around. His youthful no baggage, no judgment approach to being a contestant on this show reassures that TV land is a legitimate venue for an artist, and not because "professionals" show up as mentors and judges, but rather because artists like him have entered the space. An alternative, or rather additional place in the chain can only be good - from gallery and museum, to the street and desert (Michael Heizer's City is said to be mind-blowing), to the web and TV... .

Which brings me to a blogger's comment that he will stick to PBS' Art21. I was on this board for several years and continue to support the show. Art21 is a smart, educational tool, with an excellent curatorial focus on well-known artists at work. But like this show, it has a specific format and structure that is undeviating and thus becomes didactic. With more resources, they might stretch their content, reworking it for different audiences. But the funds just aren't there. Work of Art uses a backhanded way for such dialogue. Come on, does Bravo really need a sign saying, "Warning - Keep out of the classroom?" Please, this is a contest show on late-night cable television.

In terms of my clothes on the show, I am wearing items pulled from my own closet. I have so much makeup on that I look a bit like a tranny, but this is TV, so I'm going with it!

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