Last Night, on "Work of Art": From Painterbation to the Panopticon

Last Night, on "Work of Art": From Painterbation to the Panopticon

In “Art that Moves You,” this week’s episode of Bravos Work of Art: The Next Great Artist, something strange happened. OK, lots of strange things happened, and that’s nothing new in this reality-show tribute to the most surreal aspects of a broadly fictionalized art world. (Simon de Pury, amazingly, is real.) But here are three occurrences that rattled ARTINFOs sense of the order of things. One: Jerry Saltz expressed his critical logic in a consistently comprehensible fashion, i.e. he didn't mention any pineapple heads or make up his own numerical system. ARTINFO — which has delighted a bit too much in the past in snatching up Saltz’s less-sensical comments in our critical claws, devouring them whole and washing them down with the blood of Bill Powers — was rooting for Jerry. Go Jerry! But maybe avoid the phrase “cutty-uppy portraiture” in the future.

And then things got weirder. Miles Mendenhall, whose face we already had plastered all over our bedroom walls and whose name has been doodled in silver Sharpie across all of our Trapper Keepers (yes, Bravo, ARTINFO can do product placement too!) and whose features we’ve already analyzed alongside our own to determine whether our children would look cute-puffy-eyed or scary-puffy-eyed — well, he started really getting our goat. As Erik Johnson, not usually the voice of reason, points out, Miles is manipulative. And not only is he playing the contestants against each other, he’s also playing with our hearts. Stop playing games, Miles! By which we mean, stop hitting on Nicole Nadeau!

Finally, (spoiler alert) Jaclyn Santos won the challenge, which was to artistically interpret the experience of driving an Audi from the William Beaver House to the Audi Forum — a concept and a terrible nickname for what is, in fact, a car dealership, which made us gag. But, no, we didn’t even take a hammer to the television, or go commit an act of arson at the Utrecht store (Ed's note: for those keeping score at home, Utrecht is the show's sponsor). Jaclyn kind of deserved to win, because even though one had to stare down her cleavage for an hour before seeing the work, one might legitimately think it was quite good. (It kind of looks like Baldessaris dot pieces, except that the globs concealing the faces of men hurrying along the Manhattan streets are more tactile, resembling discarded wads of gum.)   

Alright, then. With those revelations out of the way, and the news divulged that Jaime Lynn Henderson was kicked off for a series of illustrations of herself “car dancing” (more on this later), ARTINFO can turn to what made us chuckle and/or cringe in this week’s episode.

1. Imagine Simon de Pury paying you a 5:30 a.m. wake-up call. If you watched this episode you don’t have to, and you can agree with ARTINFO that it is a heavenly visitation, like Aurora herself tip-toeing to your bedside in her golden sandals. Except even that classical goddess never looked so put together. O! Simon de Pury, teach ARTINFO your impeccable grooming methods! He looms over the cowering and confused Nicole, torturing her with the beams of terror that he can shoot out of his freshly pressed suit. And then Miles emerges (from a different bedroom — get your mind out of the gutter!) and saucily comments, “when I go out of the room to see who’s doing the impression of Simon, then it’s Simon, then I’m really wondering whether I have undies on, but I’m pretty sure that I do.” The games, Miles, they must end!

2. This is an episode about the fine cars that Audi produces. You should probably go buy one. (Wait... and, what, be more like a struggling artist? Some product placement is just confusing.) “The Audi is so light and you feel suspended,” Nicole said, smiling winningly. We’re still not sold. Next, Nicole, who is driving Miles, refers to her sleep-deprived crush as “Miss Daisy.” She definitely did not see that movie. Jaclyn drives Abdi and de Pury, who giddily starts repeating the word “suspense,” because that is what this show has resorted to in order to make it seem like there is any reason to keep watching. Suspense, suspense, suspense!

3. The Audi Forum (recall, this is a car dealership, not a seat of democratic deliberation) is too much for Miles to handle. As is everything else. Every time anyone moves, or something falls, or he has to do something, or say something, Miles complains that he is “over-stimulated” and takes a nap. When this behavioral pattern is pointed out to our former sweetheart by the judges, he demurs, “if I’m any guy I’m the comfort guy.” No, Miles, you’ve stopped giving us comfort. ARTINFO is just going to fall asleep for a second to try to forget what we once had.

4. Jaclyn, where do we begin to explain the emotional turmoil you inspired in our bosom this week. First, you freak out when men look at you as you are photographing them from inside a car dealership. Of course they're going to look at you! You are photographing them from inside a car dealership! Also your breast area is excessively exposed. Then, you use the word “panopticon.” Bentham coined the term to describe a prison system where inmates can never be certain whether or not they're being observed by a central fascist power — which in the car dealer scenario would be you.  

5. The focus of the show has shifted. It is now about how Nicole has to live in a room with lots of other girls. When people stop being polite and start being real. It’s the Real World! Real World Art Basel! Oh man, ARTINFO would lose it.

6. Back to “car dancing.” Jaime Lynn does it, apparently. She likes to “rock around the clock.” Simon de Pury seems to know what that means as he agrees, stating, “dancing is one of the best activities I can think of, at least of the ones that we can speak of on television.” What activity is left that you can’t discuss on television? Simon, you’re making ARTINFO blush. And then gallerist-judge Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn drops one of her wisdom bombs about Jaime Lynn’s project: “It has no sex, it has no speed, and it has no status — all three things that you get both from a car or from the rap music you were listening to.” Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn, O.G.

7. This is almost too cruel to focus on because he's a foreigner of some kind, but it was funny: Simon de Pury said, “that looks like a total departure than what you’ve used us to.” You smiled at that mangled syntax. You did. ARTINFO saw you.

8. In the mid-commercial-break-mini-segment (someone needs to come up with a name for this with fewer hyphens, a la theanyspacewhatever) the contestants and judges impersonate Ryan Schultzs laugh. It is the scariest thing on television since ARTINFO watched that Jonestown massacre documentary and didn’t sleep for a month.

9. Richard Phillips is the best guest judge ever. He’s the new Miles. ARTINFO is now swooning over Richard Phillips. He used the word “painterbation” to describe Mark Velasquezs awful piece. Mark responds with some blather that contains the phrase, “balls to the wall.” Ha! Then the guest judge states of Ryan’s trashy, hipster self-portrait, “the very idea that lifestyle figurative painting is going to be some kind of rebellion anyway has to be thrown out along with all three of these canvases.” Hurrah!

10. “Sometimes you have to close the door on cool,” Bill Powers says. To Bill Powers ARTINFO replies, “sometimes you have to close the door on cool.”