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'Work of Art' recap: Miles to go before he sleeps

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Once again, Work of Art: The Next Great Artist teased an engrossing hour out of an extremely unpromising premise: make a piece of art based on a commercial for Audi cars. The commercial plug was minimally disguised — contestants were asked to ride around Manhattan in Audi cars and then create something “based on the Audi experience.”

I’m going to cut to the chase, because — my apologies — today’s Emmy coverage has delayed this review. The winner this week was Jaclyn, who once again used her obsessive narcissism to her advantage. Cars? She don’t need no stinkin’ cars in her art: The swivel-hipped minx just stood in the Audi showroom and took pictures of passing guys staring at her. Then she pinned up her photos and threw white gunk in the men’s faces, and — presto! — the art judges praised her with a term that’s become a cliche even in feminist theory: She wasn’t doing yet another version of “Look at me, big daddy”; no, she was “negating the male gaze.”

The loser (finally!) was the sub-greeting-card art of Jaime, whose painting expressed her “love of car dancing.” She used this phrase twice, and no one ever asked her what the hell “car dancing” means. It did not mean “dancing while inside a car,” since she drew multiple images of herself in standing position, “rocking out to some hiphop,” a phrase that makes me cringe with sympathy for poor, deluded Jaime just writing it.

The rest of this week’s Work of Art was interesting for the remarks that, in the artless way Work of Art is edited, just dribbled out of people’s mouths amusingly:

• Erik, early on presented to us as an earnest naif, is proving to be quite the catty one. When Miles pulled one of his let-me-nap-on-this-for-a-while stunts, Erik told the camera that when the cameras aren’t rolling, back at the hotel, Miles is a “completely different” person: “I think [Miles] is an actor,” he said. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a reality contestant talk about what another contestant is like when there’s no camera crew around. Then again, I don’t watch stuff like The Bachelor/Bachelorette, so maybe I’m just naive.

• Guest artist judge Richard Phillips used the term “painturbation” to describe Mark’s self-indulgent faux-Mondrian. You could kinda tell Phillips has probably used that word a lot and that the producers urged him to pull it out during the taping.

• Abdi began a seemingly innocuous remark about Ryan being eccentric, but it took a woozy turn: “He always has a faint smell of alcohol about him.” Did Abdi mean Ryan reeks of paint fumes, or that Work of Art has driven the Beatle-cut kid to gargling with gin?

It’s a tad dismaying that, as the art gets worse, this show gets better. But I have high hopes for next week’s challenge, which looks as though it involves creating art that will exist in a public space. While I’m glad Jaime isn’t going to be around to craft her own pastel version of Robert Indiana’s LOVE sculpture, I have my fingers crossed that Miles will fall asleep on the pavement and New Yorkers will pelt him with small change donations while Jaclyn figures out how to smuggle her breasts outside the public nudity laws.

Did you watch Work of Art this week?

Follow: @kentucker