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Highest Praise

Bill Powers reflects on Peregrine's moving installation, and wonders if Ryan's eliminated work was missing a fridge magnet.


We all start off as artists, only most of us give up along the way, so says Damien Hirst and I fully agree. Peregrine's piece was a lot more potent in person and here's why: she intentionally staged the vignette high on a pedestal so if a kid approached her sculpture (and we had some children at this opening) they could only see the edges of it in the same way we only get glimmers of our parents' indiscretions when we're young. The bottom of her installation sparkled purple fairy dust and was meant to read as a sandbox cum ashtray. All the props contained conflated meanings: a unicorn covered with sex ads, lipstick smudged cigarette chalk, broken balloon condoms. It was like a Karen Kilimnik meets Mike Kelley. Wow! I welled up hearing her talk about it and am still impressed by the sensitivity she demonstrated in this work. Then for an artist like Will Cotton to compliment her by saying that he wish he'd made this sculpture himself is just about the highest praise we've seen on Work of Art. Everyone should check out Will Cotton's cover art for the new Katy Perry album released next month. He's also the artistic director on the video "California Gurls." It's further evidence of contemporary art infiltrating pop culture, which I love.

Regarding Ryan's offering this week, I almost told him that the only thing his drawings were missing was a fridge magnet to hold them up, but that felt too mean in the moment. I wish he'd mined his own experience with his JW mother and what sounds like Ryan's decision to choose art over religion. Can you imagine the potential power to be manifest from that exploration? To Ryan's credit, I know that Geoff McFetridge, who does all Spike Jonze's title sequences, had a left-handed drawing contest with Spike to come up with their chicken scratch title cards for Where the Wild Things Are, which instantly recalled Ryan's process for the children's art challenge.

I was just reading a Dave Hickey essay where he said that we talk about our personal vision of beauty because living in a democratic society, Americans want both certainty and consensus ... two ideals hard to come by, especially on reality TV!

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