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'Work of Art: The Next Great Artist' review: Miles takes a nap

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The show may be called Work of Art: The Next Great Artist, but during last night’s second episode, it found the Next Great Nap-Taker. That would be Miles, the self-described installation artist who, puffy-eyed from lack of sleep, installed himself on the bed he’d made as part of the night’s art project and dozed quietly while the judges and a crowd of gallery-attendees strolled around him.

The task this week was to make art out of an “appliance graveyard” — contestants chose from mounds of discarded old TVs, computer monitors and keyboards, wooden boxes, wiring, and such. This was as different from last week’s challenge (painting a portrait) as possible, and promised to show the range of the contestants. Miles, who’d won last week’s competition, decided to use his insomnia as inspiration, fashioning a bed flanked on either side by what he called “two concrete a–holes,” and he wasn’t talking about getting a pair of BP oil executives to join him.

Far too many of the Work of Art folks glommed onto discarded television sets to make what Nicole so inelegantly said were “like, references [to] American culture.” Proving the age-old notion that artists should avoid trying to make art with a message and just concentrate on the art-making, we got a lot of installations or sculptures that tried to show the banality of TV culture: yawn. Trong, who’d been positioned as the New York art-world insider with the show’s coolest haircut, went remarkably limp in the creativity department. He slathered four TVs with white paint, wrote trite phrases on them such as “I Hate Reality TV!” and presented it to the judges as “television having a conversation with itself.” Oh, puh-leeze; as judge Jerry Saltz said, this was “self-referentiality up the wazoo.”

The guest judge was artist Jon Kessler, introduced by one of the contestants as “the man” when it comes to installation art and kinetic sculpture. Let’s look at a bit of his work, shall we?:

In the end, Miles and his gray a–holes won (second week in a row for the pleasingly eccentric Miles), and Trong got the boot. I’d say it was difficult to pick the worst. Certainly Jaime Lynn, with her prettily bright-colored painted vacuum that looked like a department-store window display, was a close second for banality. I guess it was Trong’s pretentiousness combined with his banality that was the determining damnation.

A few things are already becoming clear:

• Clearly, this show needs to be better edited. The biggest moment of drama was allowed to slip by almost unnoticed. During the judging, Miles inserted his own opinion of Trong’s piece among the judges’: “This piece is distractingly boring,” Miles moaned to Trong. Say what? When was the last time you saw a reality-show competitor condemn another’s work during the judges’ comments? Yet except for a few raised eyebrows, this moment went unremarked.

• Judge Saltz proved again this week he has the brains and the gumption to state his praise and his reservations in the clearest of language. Looking Jamie Lynn straight in her baby-blues, he said, “I actually think that you’re not creating art here.” And he was, of course, correct.

• “Mentor” Simon de Purey is no Tim Gunn, so far. He walked from artist to artist as they crafted their pieces and said, “What are you trying to do here?” Given the inevitably vague answer, he smiled and said some variation on, “You’ve got a lot of work to do!” or “Most fascinating!” If any bunch of reality show competitors needs to be told, “You’ve got to clarify your idea!” and “I don’t think that works at all,” it’s this group. Let’s put more meat in the mentoring, shall we, Simon?

What did you think of the second week of Work of Art?

Follow: @kentucker

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