Last Night, on "Work of Art": Miles and Miles to Go Before We Sleep

Last Night, on "Work of Art": Miles and Miles to Go Before We Sleep
Miles's winning, sigh, work of art.
(Photo by Virginia Sherwood, ©Bravo)

If “The Shape of Things to Come,” the title of the second episode of Bravos reality show Work of Art: The Next Great Artist, is really any indication of what's in store... well, we’re all in trouble. For yesterday’s episode saw Trong Nguyen — essentially the only contestant who's a successful artist outside of the fake world of reality programming — eliminated for a sculpture comprised of TV sets emblazoned with phrases like “I hate reality TV” and “it’s so fake.” A rebellion is brewing, a pissed-off fractal of angry self-referentiality that can only lead to the explosion of Simon de Purys well-groomed head. (It doesn't help that Jerry Saltz, the mean critic on the judging panel, has also been writing a weekly critique of his own show for New York magazine.)

But ARTINFO has a theory.To comprehend this theory, you must understand that Miles Mendenhall — the rosy-cheeked Adonis of the show — won again. Here is the hypothesis: Miles usurped control. The evidence for this, other than the fact that he's two for two so far, can be found in the footage of Trong’s critique, in which Miles raises his hand and says, “I’m sorry, this piece is distractingly boring.” He’s not supposed to say that! He’s not supposed to say anything — the cutting remark is Saltz’s bread and butter. Let the man make a living! Another conceivable explanation for this secret shift of power is that Bravo must reward Miles for the fact that every time he graces the screen the network’s ratings double, and for every second his shirt is off, as it was at the beginning of this episode, an angel gets its wings.

Speculation aside, here is the stuff you need to know: this week’s challenge asked the "artists" to make something “three-dimensional, and sculptural,” which here at ARTINFO, we like to call a sculpture. Assemblage guru and Columbia prof Jon Kessler served as a guest judge, serving up the sage pith that comes with being a “great artist” already, tendering helpful instruction such as: “Don’t play it safe; be courageous; don’t get electrocuted.” The artists were offered their pick of what contestant Jaclyn Santos dubbed “a big pile of junk,” and surprisingly they all managed to make works that wouldn’t look out of place in a museum, especially since we're talking about the Brooklyn Museum.

And now it’s time for what actually kept ARTINFO from changing the channel:

1. Not to harp on Miles indefinitely, but one question that was plaguing all of us was answered when, in the construction of what he called his “conceptual sculpture about sleeping,” he pointed out that he had been suffering from severe sleep deprivation. Finally, the mystery of the puffy bags beneath his eyes was solved! He is not, in fact, allergic to Bill Powers.

2. In a second a-ha moment for viewers across the country, Erik Johnson, the self-proclaimed “MacGyver of art” (read: clown guy) revealed that he had suffered grave damage to the left side of his brain in a 1996 motorcycle accident. He attributes his desire to make art to his sudden reliance on the right side of his brain. ARTINFO, meanwhile, finds it interesting that Bravo's scouts recruited a contestant who is literally brain-damaged.

3. The doe-eyed ditz Jaclyn, demonstrated quite clearly that she could never actually have served as Jeff Koons artist assistant (her only claim to fame) when she tried to construct a Koonsian equilibrium tank featuring a television instead of a basketball and failed, quite spectacularly. At a hardware store she was terrified by power tools, and when a helpful salesperson asked what dimensions she wanted panels cut into, she kept repeating, “just rectangles.” Jaclyn then dreamily asked the room at large how Miles could know “know how to use silkscreen, plaster, and concrete.” Then she got Gorilla Glue stuck in her hair.

4. Bill Powers wore the same thing that he wore to the Whitney Art Party. For shame.

6. Even Jerry Saltz kind of seems to be developing a crush on Miles. At one point he exclaims that observing the muscly artist’s piece — which included him taking an impromptu nap — “I was aware of the sensual nature of watching someone sleep.” Saltz follows this statement with: “I love that there was someone asleep in the art gallery.” You love it, Jerry? He seems like he really does love what he calls Miles’ “vulnerability," which he found "very exciting.” That theory of ARTINFOs isn’t seeming so zany now, is it....