Welcome back to another week of Work of Art. Last week, we got to know our contestants – artists of varying skill levels and widely different styles – and our judges, as well as Tim Gunn-style mentor, Simon de Pury. We also saw Amanda sent home for creating a portrait of fellow contestant Jamie that looked more like wallpaper than a portrait. Nao managed to offend most of the other contestants and talk back to all of the judges, setting herself up to be the snotty villainess of the season.
Nao, who is still surprised over being in the bottom 3 last week, says the other artists had better bring it this week…..and that’s almost the last time we hear from Nao for the rest of the episode. Miles, who hasn’t been sleeping well, as evidenced by the dark circles under his eyes, says this situation is causing his OCD to come back with a vengeance. Erik, aka Mr. I’m a Total Amateur, is still upset about being in the bottom 3 last week. If I was Erik, I’d be happier that my scary killer clown painting didn’t get me a one-way ticket back to doing art shows in my living room.
Back in the studio, the artists are greeted by mentor Simon and host China, who tells them that Simon will be taking them on a walk. Off they go on a little field trip, which ends at the red door of a nondescript warehouse. Simon knocks and the door raises to reveal giant piles of electronics. There are old TVs, computers, VCRs, you name it. It’s a veritable graveyard of technology. Miles OCD kicks in big-time and he starts to feel like he has to organize it all by date, size and function
Simon then introduces Jon Kessler, a well-known mixed media sculpture artist. This appliance graveyard is where the artists will find the materials for their next challenge. They will need to use at least one appliance for this challenge. The work they create must be a three-dimensional sculpture and they can use the appliance in any way they choose. Trong is excited because he uses many different mediums in his work.
Jon Kessler talks about how objects have a memory and to consider that when using the object. I get where he’s coming from, but I know that it’s this sort of stuff that makes many non artsy folks think the art world is full of pretentious blowhards. To supplement their materials, the artists will be shopping in a hardware store. Kessler advises them all to not play it safe, to be courageous….and to not electrocute themselves.
Everyone scavenges like crazy, except for Trong, who is more methodical and Miles, who is, presumably, making piles of the appliances by size and color.
Each artist gets a large, plastic bin to pile their supplies in. Because he’s flipping out over the mess, Miles decides the best tactic is to sit down and take a nap. Upon waking up, he announces that his conceptual sculpture will be about sleeping.
The next stop the artists make is a hardware store, where they buy various supplies ranging from caulk guns to cement, to wood. Back at the studio, they all get to work, constructing and deconstructing and generally making lots of noise. Jaclyn starts to build a Plexiglas aquarium that she hopes will be waterproof, in spite of the fact that Ryan has to teach her how to use a caulk gun. Nicole bashes up an old console TV with the idea of sinking things into it in concrete. An intimidated Ryan looks on as Nicole works. Mark decides to make a TV into a Day of the Dead-style altarpiece by gluing parts of the electronics to it.
Because he isn’t quite sure what to do, Ryan announces that he’s creating a “zebra tornado vacuum cleaner,” a description that seems both incredibly vague and incredibly specific. Jamie decides to not take things apart and instead to make people look at them in a new way. Trong will be taking a conceptual approach by creating a tableau of 3 TVs watching another TV.
Peregrine has a little moment of celebration when one of the little TVs she picked actually works when she plugs it in. Erik, whose clown painting of Mark last week still haunts me, is now creating a sculpture of what he calls a future, post-apocalyptic corpse. He tells us about an accident that caused damage to the left side of his brain and changed the way he looks at things. Nao works on her piece, which involves lots of photographs of the New York skyline, which she’s arranging inside the carcass of a TV.
Simon arrives to give critiques and look confused. His first stop is Trong’s work area and he doesn’t know what to make of the whole TV situation. He seems impressed with Nicole’s TV tomb and likens the cables Judith is using to the lines of a drawing. Abdi explains to Simon that he wants to create to little kids with TVs for heads, playing video games connected to each other. Because his spray foam didn’t work, Abdi decides to make only one figure.
After Simon leaves, Abdi gets to work on his figure, which he says will largely be made of spray foam. Unfortunately, because he bought a cheaper brand of foam, it’s not puffing up the way he needs it to. Meanwhile, Miles is wreaking havoc in the workroom. He’s using chemicals that are making everyone sick, he’s knocking things over left and right and, most alarmingly, he’s casting cement, um…. sphincters.
The next day is a flurry of activity and everyone remains really focused on their work. Plans get changed as various materials work or don’t work or their plans are proven to be too grand. In spite of the fact that Mile’s chemicals gave everyone a headache the day before, they all seem impressed with his arsenal of various techniques.
On the morning of the studio show, the artists all put the finishing touches on their sculptures. Abdi, who created his figure mainly out of paper and tape, put the finishing touches on the piece and ends up angry at himself over his poor time management: he just needed 5 more minutes.
When the studio show begins, the judges – Jerry Saltz, Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn, Bill Powers and artist Jon Kessler, along with China Chow – as well as random gallery crawlers arrive. Miles, who still hasn’t gotten a good night’s sleep, decides to take a nap on his piece during the gallery show. He just curls up on the bed and goes to sleep. Erik thinks it’s both performance art and a cry for attention. Jaclyn thinks he’s a genius. I think he might just be tired…..and a genius crying for attention. Whatever Miles is, his sculpture is pretty damn cool.
This week, the bottom 3 and the top 3 are Judith, Miles, Nicole, Trong, Jamie and Abdi. The remaining artists are safe and can go back to rest. I’m sure Miles is jealous. He looks ready to fail over, in spite of his nap during the gallery show.
It’s time for the artists to explain their work to the judges. I always find it amusing to listen to artists justify their work because half of the time they’re just completely full of it and you know they’re just making stuff up.
Nicole talks about consumer culture and how we just constantly discard electronics when they quickly become obsolete. She calls her work a “burial site.” Jon Kessler thinks Nicole’s work shows both beauty and romanticism and Jerry Saltz agrees.
Judith explains that she really had no plan in creating her sculpture, but she got meaning out of the cords and how they carry currents and energy. She rambles on and on about nothing. I think Miles fell asleep at one point. Jerry Saltz says the craziness of the piece only came out in Judith’s explanation. Jon Kessler thinks it feels more like a model, not a sculpture. Both Jeanne and Bill Powers think the whole thing is too ambiguous.
Jamie claims that her piece is about things frozen in time that died doing service. She knows there’s an aspect of cheesy Americana to her work. Jon Kessler says that her work here points out the problem that arises when painters try to do sculpture. Jeanne says the work has no energy. Jerry Saltz agrees: it’s very much like a store display – this isn’t art. Bill Powers says the piece is a mystery, but he’s not engaged or curious about it.
Miles has finally woken up long enough to explain that his work was about setting up the most uncomfortable environment in which he could sleep. Jerry Saltz liked that Miles activated the work with his own body and Kessler notes that the signifiers in the piece are about the sense of body. Jeanne calls is the most conceptual and fragile of all the pieces.
Trong explains that he created a generic couch with 3 TV couch potatoes watching TV. China asks where Trong is in this piece, leading Trong to ramble on about TV. The short answer is that Trong is not in this piece. He then explains about the reference to Tom Friedman, a conceptual artist, claiming that it’s a playful reference. Jerry Saltz says they learned nothing about Trong here. Bill Powers got the playfulness, but Jerry Saltz says there’s no life to the piece. For some reason, Miles is asked for his opinion. It’s distractingly boring, he says. The core ideas are there, but they weren’t realized. Well, MEEE-OW. Trong is clearly offended by the criticisms, but when Bill Powers asks Trong if this piece would be in a retrospective of his work, he isn’t sure.
Abdi admits he originally wanted to create two figures that would be products more of the media than of their parents. The judges seem suitably impressed with the one figure. Jerry Saltz liked how Abdi handled the materials, as well as the posture and pose of the figure.
Back in the waiting room, Judith complains that the comments about Trong’s work were too Harsh. Miles expresses his disagreement with that statement by falling asleep.
Back with the judges, we get a rundown on how the top 3 and the bottom three fared.
Nicole: She stepped up this week and showed a sense of the materials and created a piece that the judges found thrilling and likened to archaeology. Her work showed both depth and integrity.
Abdi: The judges liked that Abdi took on gaming culture and felt the humanity in his boy/man/alien creature.
Miles: the judges general liked that Miles made himself a part of his work, but Bill Powers thought that two anuses was overkill.
Trong: The mistake Trong made this week was showing how much he knows about the art world – it made him feel like too much of an insider.
Jamie: All of the judges were disappointed in Jamie’s work this week. On the other hand, Bill Powers thought the rest of the judges were too nice to
Judith: While some of the judges didn’t think Judith went far enough, others thought her sculpture looked more like a bunch of junk on a table.
The top 3 this week are Miles, Nicole and Abdi. Once again, the winner will get immunity from elimination next week. Also once, again, Miles is the winner. He looks surprised and pleased….and tired. If those bags under his eyes get any bigger, he’s going to need help carrying them. Miles tells us he’ll stay as long as he can for free beer, food and art supplies.
That means that the bottom 3 this week is Judith, Jamie and, surprisingly, Trong. It’s not surprising based on his work this week, but it’s definitely surprising based on his experience and on his work last week.
China sums up the situation:
Jamie produced theater and store design, not sculpture.
Trong took four TVs and gave them four TVs: it just wasn‘t enough.
Judith’s may have had a lot of energy, but her work lacked direction.
Out this week is Trong, which is actually pretty shocking. Trong says that everyone is entitled to their opinion and he’s choosing to keep his dignity in this situation. He takes a few moments to say goodbye to everyone, claiming it was a positive experience for him.