I hope Bravo re-calibrates its search for art that makes the viewer “feel” something because it seems to encourage the absurd amount of bad portraiture. This ranges from Abdi’s race car driver to this weeks slew of shirtless and pantless portraits. None were any good. Still, this episode offered the capable Ryan McGinness as the guest judge and was more engaging than most. The drama and the sheer volume of contemporary art myths showcased proved gripping.
Pairing the remaining artists off so they could create two unified pieces about universal opposites, the groups and themes seemed made for the contestants. Miles and Jaclyn received Male/Female, Mark and Peregrine Heaven/Hell and Nicole and Abdi Order/Chaos.
Host China Chow leaves after giving them their assignments, and conflict arises almost immediately. “Mark is really interested in lightness for heaven and darkness for hell. I’m more interested in something that might be more subtle” Peregrine chides continuing, “I have a better sense of conceptual art than Mark does. I believe I can elevate his work and still stick to my work” This patronizing statement is not Peregrine’s finest moment, particularly because her concept was no more sophisticated: The near-death and survival of Mark as represented by a scar on his belly. Mark received emergency surgery when his stomach exploded in his early twenties.
Peregrine buys into the same contemporary art myth Simon de Pury later articulates when he worries that Mark’s work will be too literal. That art should be subtle and complicated is common mis-representation of how the art world evaluates art — it actually privileges unique expression — and it’s this confusion that continually creates vague, inarticulate discussion even amongst professionals. After all, neither of the qualities Peregrine laid out make sense in a challenge calling for strong opposition. In fact it dilutes the potency of Heaven and Hell.
Never to be burdened with this problem, Miles provides the most grossly insidious work the program has showcased: Get the sexy Jaclyn naked and masturbating. UPDATE: This narrative was constructed by Bravo, and does not reflect the intentions of the artist. Read the AFC comment section for more details. Of course, he’d have the audience believe his piece is only what he constructed — a wall he’s punched holes in to represent a loss of control — but that’s not the case. He easily dominates and manipulates Jaclyn, taking on both control and loss of control. Presumably this was done as a means of covering his own ass should the collaboration with Jaclyn fail but it is completely lacking in all human decency. I would have liked to have seen him eliminated just for that.
Meanwhile, Bravo’s typical editing has Nicole Nadeau looking like an inarticulate freak, when in fact she simply buys into the idea that art needs a higher concept. This often results in muddled concepts such as her handcrank ticker tape of social norms. It’s a funny piece with a wooden head as a mouth piece, but the concept was forced and relied too heavily on poorly conceived text. She could have ditched the text. She also should have let Abdi figure out him painting on his own. It’s unclear if Nicole seeded her partner the idea of Socrates Cave[sic], but it seems like a concept she would gravitate towards; A group of people chained together watching a blank wall as an allegory for the concept that ideas more than materials are the highest form of reality.
Whatever the case, Abdi’s interpretation of the cave is an amateurish abstract painting that Jaclyn Santos criticizes for being “stuck between figuration and abstraction”. Abdi’s piece had problems, but Santos hardly identifies them. There’s nothing wrong with ambiguous painting, so it’s unclear why Jaclyn doesn’t like it past it not being beautiful enough. “My work has a beautiful simplicity.” she chirps contrasting her own work to Abdi’s.
The crits themselves were a little better in this episode even if I didn’t agree with the results. Ryan McGinnis wasn’t bad as a guest judge but I’d like to see a female artist take that role. The fact that there’s been none is literally offensive. A run down of the results below.
Mark Velasquez gets the cut this week, a decision I don’t wholly agree with even if his concepts have continually been unoriginal. Sure his photograph could have been a little more challenging, but he was eliminated for making a picture too literal, at the same time as Jaclyn Santos was rewarded for producing a nude painting of herself masturbating as a representation of female. Peregrine’s work wasn’t that great either, and Bravo’s editing of Miles’ defense of it in the crit makes it seem like he’s the only one willing to give Mark a beat down. That seems unlikely. Also his criticism that Mark didn’t stretch his materials, is off point, (though it reveals Mendenhall’s own strategies for art making.) Mark’s issues are not materially based, but lie his lack of creative approaches. This can change over time of course, but that takes years.
Incidentally, Mark posted a photograph of his original idea, which clearly would have been much better as it’s a deeply creepy vision of heaven. I can’t say I blame Peregrine for refusing to model for that though.
Ryan McGinness noted Nicole’s work comes off as a little rinky dink, an issue in the last episode as well. Abdi suffered some poor treatment in this critique to the extent that I actually felt bad for him. After being told his painting was wholly unsuccessful the artist asks what he should work on. McGinness responds, “the fact that you’re even asking for advice is the wrong approach. You should be asking yourself.”
While there’s some truth this sentiment, the feedback isn’t particularly generous. Somehow Abdi managed to avoid picking up almost any knowledge about contemporary art while in school, and since he’s not an untrained artist, his work consistently looks off. If Abdi is serious about being a professional artist, his answer is this: Look at more shows. Farah doesn’t look at enough contemporary art and it’s obvious.
I wish Miles were penalized for this piece. There’s been a lot of bad art on this show, but this is the only work narrative I think that actually debases the art world. UPDATE: Read the AFC comment section, for more information on how Bravo created this false narrative.
“I like that they had to deal with big ideas so accidentally, their own idea of themselves would start to come through” Jerry Saltz
“I just want to think of what I could represent to gain control that’s still feminine, you know – Jaclyn Santos, the staunch feminist.