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'Work of Art' recap: 'There's enough of The Sucklord to go around'

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It’s always nice to have a person on a reality show with whom a viewer can identify, who speaks on camera the thoughts you’re having in your head. In the case of this week’s Work of Art: The Increasingly Fruitless Search for the Next Great Artist, that person was Lola, who responded to the careful, thoughtful critique of Simon de Pury by saying, after he’d walked away, “Whatever. I don’t care what Simon says.”

Granted, Lola was being quite bratty in general, behaving as though she really wouldn’t be upset if she lost this week’s competition, perhaps because the chore was getting in the way of the two things she seems to enjoy most: flipping her luxuriant hair back off her face so that the camera operator will remain transfixed by her, and sucking up to The Sucklord. (Realistically facing the prospect that Sucky was inevitably going to flirt with his competition partner Sarah, Lola told us, “There’s enough of The Sucklord to go around.” Hold that thought, Lola…)

The week’s challenge: to create an example of “street art” on a Brooklyn wall. Simon informed alarmed viewers across the nation that “street art is … an acceptable form of art.” Whew; what a relief. This is one small example of why I’m starting to think Work of Art isn’t long for Bravo. It’s on a channel that doesn’t make sure to notify its viewers that, say, table flipping is “an acceptable form of dining” on The Real Housewives of New Jersey; I sense that, for all its flash hype as a look at young artists making cutting-edge art, Work is, in its tender soul, quite trad and even a bit fussy. I like that aesthetic tension, but I can see why it’s not a big crowd-pleaser.

Anyway, I’m avoiding getting to the art that was created because once again, it mostly stank. The winning piece by the team of Young (again a winner!) and Dusty was the incredibly boring sight of the two men, painted in profile, with word balloons containing sentiments such as “How does it feel to be a father?” and “How does it feel to lose a father?” Plus there were stairs the duo built themselves so viewers could climb up close to the banality.

Lola and Michelle went on an adolescent rampage, painting tigers with “striped penises.” They laughed and laughed and said, “Penises are so much fun!” and made Kymia cry by giving her the silent treatment. It was like an outtake from a new ABC Family show, The Public Life of the American Artist.

The Sucklord and Sarah sprayed a wall with what looked like a black-and-white maze pattern, and then built out some more maze construction from the wall for a 3-D effect. Before the challenge, Sucklord had said, “My work has been so heavy-handed” and his new goal was to be “vague.” This got at something true: Some art critics (not Jerry Saltz, a paragon of the profession) do indeed like work that is difficult to pin down so that they can explain it to or inflate it for you. But, alas, Sucklord went heavy-handed again after all.

While it seemed obvious to me that Lola and Michelle’s piece was more actively bad — so bad in every way: conception, execution, and general who-cares? attitude — time waits for no Sucklord: His 15 minutes of cable-TV fame ended, as no fewer than three of the judges used the same term (“he retreated”) to criticize his maze project.

Here endeth the reign of The Sucklord over Work of Art. Will this have any effect on the quality of the show? Are you still watching?

Twitter: @kentucker

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