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Abdi's big upset and other random notes on Bravo's 'Work of Art'

August 12, 2010 | 11:19 am


There were a few genuine surprises on the season finale of Bravo's reality series "Work of Art." Host China Chow did not dress like a parade float, executive producer Sarah Jessica Parker put in an appearance  and the heavy favorite Miles lost in the final reckoning.

To conclude the series' first season, the remaining three contestants had to each create their own gallery show using themes of their own choosing. Peregrine -- the funky art chick who was raised on a commune -- decided to go with a county-fair motif and went heavy on colorful clay sculptures, ponies and a cotton candy machine.

Abdi -- the affable art teacher from Pennsylvania -- created a series of unconventional self-portraits that included two large-scale sculptures, paintings and drawings. Meanwhile, bed-headed Miles, who had dominated the competition throughout the season, took inspiration from a chance photographic encounter at a local White Castle to create abstract digital portraits.

The judges, including photographer David LaChapelle, found a lot to like in each show. The attendees for the opening included the eliminated contestants from earlier in the season as well as an enthusiastic Parker, who seemed to be channeling Carrie Bradshaw on a shopping spree.

In the end, Abdi was crowned the surprise winner for the season, bringing Miles' victory streak to an abrupt conclusion. The judges eliminated Miles first, saying that his project felt too much like a work in progress. Peregrine's show was faulted for its excess and unruly aesthetic.

Now that the season is over, it's high time that the show itself receives an evaluation. Here is an assortment of random notes and thoughts about the series, in no particular order of importance.

Workofart2 Simon de Pury, auction house executive and mentor: Your accent was the best part of the show.

Peregine, contestant: Your Donnie Darko hat was the second best part of the show.

China Chow, host: Are those your clothes, or does Bravo have a humongous costume budget?

Erik, contestant: Your temper tantrums were sorely missed. We hope you took solace in Miles' defeat.

Jaclyn, contestant: Your winning photographic collage from the Audi episode was impressive. But perhaps you should have acknowledged its debt to artist John Baldessari?

Miles, contestant: A lot of viewers think you are a jerk. Are you? Also, buy a comb.

Abdi, contestant: So you won, congratulations. But can you explain your winning gallery show, because we still don't know what to make of it.

Jerry Saltz, judge: We think you have the potential to become the show's equivalent of Simon Cowell. Be meaner, ruder and more arrogant next time.

Bravo, the cable network: Is it true that you won't let Jaclyn speak to the press? What's that about? Got something to hide?

Producers: Why were so many of the challenges so lame?

Ryan, contestant: You are more authentically hip than Miles will ever be.

Viewers out there: Would any of you actually buy the works of art created on the show? Or is reality TV too déclassé for the serious collector?

Miles, contestant: We admit that we said some not-so-nice things about you this season. For what it's worth, we think you have talent and that you are definitely going places. But really, buy a comb.

Producers: Guest judge -- Lady Gaga. Think it over.

Bravo: Why not shoot Season 2 -- if there will be a Season 2 -- in Los Angeles? We've got Jeffrey Deitch, in case Simon de Pury is too busy to return.

-- David Ng

Photo (top): Miles, Abdi and Peregrine. Credit: Bravo

Photo (bottom): Simon de Pury and Sarah Jessica Parker. Credit: Bravo


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Comments () | Archives (11)

A pleasant surprise. At last they took my suggestion, did away with the dumb challenges, and let the artists work on their very own project, at their own speed, and over an extended length of time. I enjoyed the output of all three, and agree with the selection of Abdi as the winner, though Peregrine and Miles were also very worthy competitors. Here’s to further shows along this line, and with all the kinks, drawbacks and unpleasantries worked out. Though I still would not classify any of the three finalists as ‘great’ artists, they’ve shown they have talent, insight and self-confidence, and with a bit of luck just might have a worthwhile career in front of them. I also thought David LaChapelle was a good choice as guest critic. His observations were poignant and his critiques were to the point. Bottom line: For once, there was finally something that could be labeled ‘reality’ without smirking.
(Aside to David N & many others: Too much harping on looks of contestants, especially Miles. This is an art show, not Fashion Runway. Who gives a flippety-dip whether he's well tonsured and wearing a 3-piece Brooks Brothers suit or a styrofoam loincloth? It's the work that counts, nothing else.)

Peregrine's sculptures weren't clay, they were wax.

I was very happy with the outcome. Never mind that Miles is a douche, his final project was much about computer skills and very little about creativity, aesthetics or craftsmanship. I didn't get Peregrine all season. I think there is something seriously wrong with her--beside the fact that her art looks immature. She is 30+ years old and she is still drawing young women puking? The photo of the dead fawns was art? She needs a new psychiatrist. I liked just about everything Abdi did all season. He was kind and supportive to all of the others and never was a pretencious douche like Miles. His final presentation showed creativity and skill and he used a diversity of mediums to show his talent.

In general, I thought the judges on this show stunk. They got the final call right, but their comments were often very odd. Although I usually agreed with Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn, her comments seemed shallow. I could never figure out the commentary of Jerry Saltz. I got the sense that he had a crush on Miles and, in an effort to win over his would be love interest, he tried to dump on Abdi at every chance. Bill Powers seems like a douche, although his comments at least had some logic and reason behind them. China Chow was adequate in her role. She's not as beautiful as Padma Lakshmi from Top Chef. But China was never a negative on this show.

Why don't you ask Jaclyn for an interview?

I was blown away by Abdi’s drawing proficiency from the first show, but was convinced his skill set would be considered a reductive element of his total ability as an artist by the judges, as one (sure enough) even at the end tried to scornfully float that tired old warning buoy. Thank God Abdi did the scale thing with his sculpture, any smaller and I think the pony show would have won the Blue Ribbon.
In the body of the shows, Miles seemed to totally fit the bill as the perfect typical contemporary artist. I cynically predicted his winning from the start; it just goes to show: do not second-guess your real hopes. I seconded guessed a whole career in fine art by opting for commercial art as I thought my desire for a deep skill set was a handicap in the cold world of conceptually dominated art. I hope it’s not to late for me. It took a TV show and 22-year kid to confirm my secret hopes that the art world is changing.
Convoluted art speak that considerers good drawing to be a handicap is finally being shown to be an antiquated detrimental theory. The last episode also proved what everyone was clamoring for the whole series, give the artists some time to do some really great personal work and they will rise to the occasion. Pony girl being exceptionally prolific.
Surprisingly with all that time Miles didn’t do too much, he didn’t do quiet enough. If he had followed the bum to the morgue, used the five grand to bribe the attendant, photographed the corpse and finally to the pauper’s grave or oven using bum soot to print with, he might have won it. I wanted to be on this show, but now I’m not so sure I could cut the bar they set, but I’d try. Well-done Bravo.

In the episode with the collabs; chaos/order, heaven/hell...Abdi tried to talk about Allegory of the Cave. He had just been told about it, never read it, probably still hasn't read it but tried to use it to explain his chaos playdough painting. Then he asked the judges what they wanted to see on the canvas. He was a nice guy but really knows nothing about art. Throughout the season he repeatedly tried to get the other contestants to help him with ideas. He has no ideas. He is not a great artist. After the show I felt like they gave the prize to the finalist that had the smallest chance to make it as an artist. Yes I think Abdi made some huge steps toward being a good artist. His drawing skills are good and the bodyag was nice painintg, but I dunno. Another thing about this whole thing is there is no way to connect to the deeper meanings of these artist's work without reading their statements or journals or something. I read a comment posted after Jerry Salz's recap in NYmag.com and someone complained about Miles' participation in the critiques and that he may have swayed the judges. I was shocked that he was the only one that ever said anything about the contestants work during the critiques. Stand up for your work! Push back! The judges are just people! Find the words and explain it!
That was a huge disadvantage for the artists, that they were given almost no time to think about their pieces. Make Now! I didn't see the end being such a difficult choice at the end, but the work was all pretty good. Miles should have made up something about the pixel shots. Peregrine should have edited. I did not see Abdi as the winner. I will shut up.

He's 22--- sober up-- he's got the chops, now he's got time to season.

I would hang Miles' portrait of Nao in my collection. Other than that - better camera work on the actual art would enable viewers to appreciate it more.

We know the show needs "tweaking." We know the contestants are young. We know the producers have a hand in decisions. But overall, this show did the seemingly impossible. Got Americans talking about art.

It's a start.

L.A. for Season 2? I think that's a terrific idea.

This is the issue with LA, you think Art is made to serve you in some way, and thus giving you the prerogative to voice your uneducated opinions on beautiful art. You don't get Peregrine, that's you're deal, and her show moved me beyond belief... Another thing, you don't have to understand something for it to move you... you don't have to define everything, LA... Get over yourselves, and your opinions.. .

Note the cheeky irony..

Actually I understand why I like Pony girls show, it was like a rambling calliope of sugary sensory overload touching exactly like the feelings of a real carnival. I think that's why she ultimately lost. The art world prizes imagery that is more allegory oriented, the best work being oblique enough to stack multiple levels of possible symbolic investigation on it. Why? This is necessary for the art critic and college professors who are better at using theory than drawing instruction to dominate the art world. Intellectual prowess over skill. Simple. Ironic that Abdi while a far better draughtsman that Pony Girl his work in this case showed multiple levels for allegory.

You forgot the most memorable line from the entire show: "I got my first erection to a Renoir" - Simon de Pury


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