Work of Art Episode 3: POP IS EVERYTHING Recap

by Will Brand on October 27, 2011 · 7 comments WANGA

Leon makes a sad face.

Reality TV always starts with a funeral and ends with an execution.

Where Ugo's dismissal last week sent the cast into a moment of reflection on their own fragility, Kathryn's is mostly met with grunts. Somehow, the most quoteable line Bravo could squeeze out of her eulogy was this gem from Sucklord: “Kathryn's the one that got sent home from the motion challenge.” Burn.

(Actually, I should clarify that I have no idea what Sucklord actually said; that sound bite, like so many on Work of Art, was clearly edited together in post-production. For future reference, I'll be using the | symbol to reflect the audio stitching, as in: “Kathryn's the one that got sent home | from the motion challenge.”)

Bayete informs everyone that the secret to his success was listening to the judges' advice from the first week – IIRC, “stop making shit” – and Tewz is bright enough to realize what this means: “Going into the next challenge, I need to get back to my roots, which is street art.” Yes. Because you're the token street artist. And they told you to make street art. Please. Thank you. After all, branching out has been a hard road for Tewz, who reflects, “Every day is a battle, you know?”

The pain and struggle that is life seems to be getting Michelle down, too: “Being in the top for a second challenge makes me really worried, because I know at some point I'm not going to do well, and it's going to be this terrible nosedive.” Which, you know, is reasonable, but it's strange that Michelle, specifically, should have a soundbite included in the final edit wherein she says she's eventually going to- ohhhhhhhhh. Bravo, you are terrible at keeping secrets.

The artists make their way over to Simon's secret fortress, where they find a mysterious trail of tin cans. Thankfully, nobody makes a “CANsel and Gretel” pun. At the end of the trail, they find a few days of miserable production intern labor in the form of a Cady Noland ripoff, and Simon and China standing next to a Warhol soup can.

In the least plausible audio splicing yet, Sarah Kabot, accomplished artist, professor, and person who has been interested in art for more than five minutes, is made to seem like she's never seen a Warhol in person: “I can't believe it!  To see it in person,  it's incredible!”

So the challenge in unveiled: create a piece of Pop Art. Everyone nods along except Dusty, who decides to go with his trademark confused face instead. As a challenge, there are some obvious winners and losers here: mass culture-savvy Sucklord's a shoo-in, hippie Jazz-minh's screwed.

Simon notices that we're now four minutes into the show without him saying any stupid shit, so boy oh boy does he fix that:


So everybody gets $150 to go to the art supply store, which leads to some incredibly boring shots: Sarah Jimenez needs Jazz-minh to reach something that's high up; Jazz-minh takes a photograph of a book about how to draw hair, then puts it back on the shelf; Sucklord has trouble finding the floor staff. Really, guys? This is the best you can do?

Sucklord, who is apparently immune to nausea, decides to make a work of art based on Charlie Sheen's ramblings: tiger blood, warlock dust, etc. This, of course, requires Lola model nude for him. Now, I realize this romance makes TV sense, and I love rooting for underdogs as much as anybody, but let's be real – there's some deep-seated injustice here. Even Lola realizes it: “The Sucklord? He's one of those boys I shouldn't find attractive, but… I dunno, shit.”

Back in the studio, Tewz tries to get homework help all sneaky-like by asking Young Sun, “What's your definition of Pop Art?” He asks a little because Bravo needed someone to explain art on TV, and a lot because Tewz actually has no idea what's going on. He picked a good target, though, because Young Sun gives him an answer straight out of Art History 101; pretty soon, Tewz starts smiling: “See, that's what I thought! I'm definitely dealing with that!” As proof, he tells the camera that he knows a lot about Pop, because he watched Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as a kid.

Unsurprisingly, his idea for a piece is hilariously bad: a painting of the back end of a Fedex truck, only, like, it actually says FADex, because “it's, like, delivering Pop”.

Kymia's idea sounds boring – it's environmental, it's about how wasteful water bottles are, and it's going to look like an ad, okay sure – and then, suddenly, she takes off her shirt. This is a good moment. As she explains in a sound bite that the piece is about how sex is used to sell things, Bravo shows as much of her chest as they can on basic cable. Be sure to tune in next week, guys.

This is what commodification of critique of commodification looks like.

Leon's idea is boring, too – logos, and flags, because flags are like logos and logos are like flags, holy shit – but unfortunately he doesn't have tits. Michelle's piece is a painting of a Coke can, only it's not derivative because it's a Coke Zero can. Sarah K., who was clearly unwilling to give the producers a real catty quote, has a collection of sound bites spliced together in the most egregious way yet: “Michelle's been on the top twice | but it's not a | good | idea to just | rip something | off, I mean, we know that it's referring to Andy Warhol, | so | I think | she could be | going home.” Her own piece is a sign, only it's a sad closing sign because of the economy. Okay.

Dusty's idea is not so much boring as barely an idea at all. He explains it to Tewz: “You know like the little swivel thing that you put your tray in when you eat fast food, and it says 'Thank You' on the front? I'm changing it. It's gonna say, 'How Could You?'” At this moment, Tewz stops, blinks, and then the camera pans over to Dusty. That bad. By way of apology, the editors insert some photographs of Dusty with his dad, who has heart disease and I guess maybe eats fast food, and also Dusty's baby, who… I dunno, shit.

Jazz-minh, meanwhile, is making something about Britney Spears, and how powerless Britney Spears is, and the tattoo Jazz-minh has under her lip, and how she wishes Britney Spears had that tattoo instead. It's telling that the hippie typecast can't think about pop culture without thinking about how she'd improve it; of course, that's also the opposite of Pop art.

After some ads, Simon makes his studio visit, calling the artists to order with a sentence – “gather round here” – that is somehow entirely rolled. With him, a strange figure! Dusty gets spooked: “I know something's going on, and it makes me nervous.” Who could this suspiciously well-dressed man be? Who is Dusty afraid it might be? History's mysteries. As it turns out, it's Jess Cagle, the editor of Entertainment Weekly, announcing that this week's winner will recieve a two-page spread in the magazine, because EW likes pop culture and, you know, whatever, it's exposure. Kymia immediately realizes she's made a huge mistake. “Why didn't you come in this morning?” she cries, and rightfully so: her unpublishable tits are going to cost her the win this week. As a concession, Simon reveals that this week's winner won't receive immunity; then he announces it's going to be a dreaded double elimination, which makes everybody freak out.

Kymia, not content to freak out in the normal fashion, reveals she has both a social anxiety disorder and a panic disorder, enabling her to freak out more effectively. Then she tells a heartbreaking story about watching her dad die in a jet-skiing accident, which makes bloggers feel really bad about that last sentence. It's rough, and even in a show format about emotional breakdowns and sad memories, it stands out.


Molly Porter October 28, 2011 at 2:43 am

That old lady busting a move is Ilona Smithkin. SHE is a work of art.

Will Brand October 28, 2011 at 3:04 am

Thank you, internet.

Ellen Yustas K. Gottlieb October 28, 2011 at 4:46 am

 too cerebral for pop art IMHO

Young Sun Han October 28, 2011 at 6:43 am

Always enjoy the recaps. Here’s an indirect response –

Anonymous October 29, 2011 at 1:46 pm

The judges either scold you for not doing your signature work or scold you for always doing it.  

Lauren M. October 31, 2011 at 3:07 am

I’m surprised Bayete didn’t just make vague American Apparel ads with “opposites” and call it a night.

Livmoe November 2, 2011 at 1:42 am

I’m surprised there was no mention of Sucklord’s ostentatious glasses on top of wacky glasses look in the opening scene at Simon’s fortress.

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