Work of Art Episode Six: It Didn’t Suck

by Will Brand and Paddy Johnson on November 18, 2011 · 1 comment WANGA

The episode has lots of shots of street art, most helpfully recolored by Bravo's visual team. Thanks, guys.

Work of Art didn't suck this week. The challenge, street art, was acceptable, the guest judge, Lee Quinones, was fitting, and the show's decision to pair up the artists in teams of two meant that there was ample time to actually show each work. What's more, we had an entire episode without a single teary recollection, which meant there was a bunch of space that Bravo was forced to fill with an interesting but well-explained change in the personality of a character. Like they were developing. It was weird.

Then again, there was also an entire segment devoted to explaining that Young has great legs.

The number lines spliced together in this episode are the highest we've seen. Much of the episode is spent watching Lola be a bitch, which is a new theme, albeit the result of heavy editing. So the story seems only partially reflective of whatever actually happened. Nevertheless, she ignores Kymia, she says mean things, and she talks about how she was raised to be impatient, just like her mother. Those things Bravo didn't pull out of thin air. At one point, she mentions she enjoys throwing glitter into subway cars. It's the kind of flighty behavior that does way more to establish her as antagonistic and rude than to establish her artistic prowess. Maybe if we were wild and idiosyncratic like her, we'd understand.

As the episode opens, most of the focus is on Young, and particularly his $20,000. Dusty thinks he “deserves” to have won the last challenge with his tadpole art. Such a miscalculation is pretty hilarious on it's own, but when he gets paired with Young, the comments get better. Apparently the two of them couldn't be more different because he's straight and Young's not. Dusty can't decide on whether that's a strength or weakness.

The window spaces in Lola and Michelle's piece are speckled with tiger dicks. Each closed window space, as the idea goes, is filled with imaginings of what might lie inside (in this pair's case, alcoholic jungle predators displaying their humanoid penises to the world). The problem is that Lola and Michelle are the wrong pair entirely to accomplish this as any sort of invitation to imagination: throughout the series, both have demonstrated the sort of myopia and amour-propre that serves only to shut others — and particularly their imaginations — out. It comes as no surprise that the resulting work is entirely closed: the tigers' overly-obvious presence has stripped out all of the mystery and interest the boarded-up windows might have offerred to begin with. Also, it's just not visually convincing — there's a line between “childlike” and “childish” that both artists toe. In this case, they've ended up on the wrong side. Lee Quinones calls it “hideous”.

To their credit, the work responds to the building. Quinones takes this as a fault, rightly identifying that painting interior scenes in bricked-up window arches is a gimmick older than any of the contestants. They've also printed stacks of stickers, which they encourage visitors to the “opening” to put on the other artists' work. Lola explains this during the crit as being a nod to the “deviousness” of street art, which is unbearably out-of-touch: the logic here is that since street artists often don't respect the rights of property owners, they aren't expected to respect the rights of other artists.

It's the sort of idea one has when one doesn't actually like street art. It also ignores the fact — clear to anyone even passingly familiar with the scene — that street artists hate having their work tagged or painted over, and view it as a fairly dire insult. Kymia's and Sara's work is no exception; it's inexplicable that Quinones doesn't have a televised line pointing this out, though he has a clear opportunity to do so during the crit.

Dusty and Young's piece starts off on rocky ground when the two artists failed to find any thing to talk about. Young spends a good deal of time wringing his hands over how well the other teams are working together, and worries that the set of stairs they've built don't actually say anything. And they don't. The scene closes with a shot Young scratching his head.

Ultimately though, the pair come up with an actual idea. They fill two of the window spaces of their wall with their profiles, and paint between them a series of speech bubbles directed at each other: “I recently lost my father; how does it feel to become a parent?”; “I recently became a father; how does it feel to lose a parent?”. In between, the bubbles meet to say, “It changes you.” Viewers are invited by a pair of staircases to add their own thoughts – an emerging theme in Young's work. As a piece, it's hokey, but it needs to be to justify Bravo's narrative of wildly different people bonding over universal experiences; in the context of the show, and particularly its overt focus on the personal, it works. The judges, though, are perhaps overly pleased. China, in a flash of brilliance, explains to Jerry Saltz that “it's the circle of life.” Jerry, looking impressed, replies, “Wow!” Careful examination of this response by Art Fag City staff has failed to uncover any evidence of irony.

If you've been watching the show at all, you probably could have guessed what Kymia and Sara Jimenez's piece was going to look like. Sara, wanting a change from the delicately-drawn figures of vague sadness she's produced for four of the season's five episodes, produces a delicately-drawn figure of vague sadness. Kymia plays along, and together they come up with a criminally obvious piece of work about how change and loss are no fun. It was while looking at this work that I finally realized Sara is not actually attempting to draw aliens, but that her drawings just happen to look like that.

Sucklord and Sarah Kabot are a very likeable team, but their work is incredibly boring. The concept of a maze could have worked — Sucklord has some good ideas about this drawing viewers in, and there might be a certain resonance with both the city and the brick — but the mural they created simply isn't that maze-like, and there's nothing else here. The title of the work alone shows this well enough: Sucklord and Sarah's Super Big Art Project. Word to the wise: if the best description you can think of for the thing is that it's big, it's art, and it's yours, it might not be that great.

Dusty and Young win this challenge. This isn't too much of a surprise, but Bravo lets its audiences down when Young reveals a bet we never see paid: Dusty promised Young he would wear his short shorts.

Lola is seen as the the mastermind of her and Michelle's work, which means she's on the cutting block with Sarah and Sucklord. But by this point, the judges are tired of talking about Sucklord, so he gets the axe. All the girls cry over this decision, (and twitter ignites with the news). Never short on words, the Sucklord consoles fans with this gem: “The inside is always going to be soft and vulnerable but the armor plating is going to get a little more diesel.”

And with that, we're led into next week's preview, where it becomes clear why Fiat would be willing to offer $100,000 on this show.

{ 1 comment }

vertseven November 21, 2011 at 9:54 am

You missed Kymia’s teary “the cool girls don’t like me” breakdown as Lola and Michelle snicker in the background.

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