Are you familiar with the Bronner Brothers International Hair Show? I just watched the film Good Hair, it's shear genius. We are continually reminded that the contest is at the heart of American entertainment. The art world has its own competitions: The Hugo Boss Prize, the Venice Biennale award for 'Best Pavilion,' and the newly-initiated Rob Pruitt Art Awards held at the Guggenheim Museum, where Jerry was awarded 'Writer of the Year.' Just read Linda Yablonsky’s blog regarding Work of Art, in which she complains about the quality of the art and wants more talk about the art. True, Work of Art is no battle of the titans. If it were, it would be a different show, a spin-off in which well-known artists battled for the crown. No matter, we strive to see with a critical eye - in a classroom, museum or gallery, and on this set.
The fun is watching the process, the studio practice. Therein lies the hook - the drama going on behind. How is an art work birthed? Finding the assigned book on the paint tube might be gimmicky, and showing the artists carrying their works into the gallery reads cheap. But what high moments - Miles calculating the time it takes him to read Frankenstein, Jaclyn's bathroom photo shoot, Jaime Lynne blow-drying her watercolor. Bravo's product, their trademark, is capturing the process. Do you remember Bob Ross on PBS’ Joy of Painting - the Mr. Rogers of art? He calmly showed the technique of painting in oil, completing a credible landscape painting in a 30-minute episode. The Joy of Painting is the ultimate package for public programming. I have traded it in for the mess and panic of these studios.
This show works for a range of artists. But the one who will win is both adaptable, and can capitalize on a language built alone in their studio. While not criteria for a great artist, this flexibility remains key. The football kicker practices daily, but he can not redo a botched kick during a game. Watching this reflex, tested under pressure, is our national sport. While Judith drew on her own ambidextrous abilities, she could not shake her hippie idealism, and refused to play along. It was a close call. Jaclyn's drawing was prudish and plain, but we were not ready to see her leave, so she got credit for the possibility of dropping her clothes. Sorry to sound catty, but this group is so tame. To be continued next week...
Abdi's last-minute drawing had an immediacy and now-ness of a cool artist's book cover. Spray paint, as Rashid Johnson has said, is the quickest form of alchemy. Mark's commercial image could have easily won, but too many book covers resemble movie advertisements. We felt strongly that John's technicolor illustration of The Time Machine would fly!
Finally, several more contestants should have found a nook, curled up, and digested their books. It was a professional gig.