Thursday, June 10, 2010

Process -vs- Contest: Bravo's Work of Art - The Next Great Artist.

What makes a great artist? Is a great artist someone who creates consistent magnificence in one primary medium, or is greatness characterized by showing competence across a wide array of artistry? The newest contest show from Bravo Network, Work of Art: The Next Great Artist, explores this very question, though indirectly. The primary focus for the show's producers is to maximize the entertainment value. Where Bravo is concerned, this usually means "drama". Given the array of characters cast, drama will be among the primary things on display, along with the art.

So what about the art? Off we go to the communal studio where the fun ensues. The first challenge for the 14 contestants, including a young artist with OCD (imagine that) and an overbearing, tactless performance artist, was to pair off and create a portrait of each other, loosely based on the self-portraits each artist produced. Seemed pretty straight forward, and for the most part, it was straight forward, with just enough of a glimpse of the artists' various temperments to intrigue viewers, allowing them to begin classifying characters along the usual lines: bitch, flake, freak, nicey nice, and general egomaniac.

Most of the drama takes place as the artists begin to get into their processes, begin creating, and eventually begin freaking out. Then the snarking begins as the artists themselves begin reacting to each others' mode of operation. When that included the OCD kid, Miles, using power tools and generally making a lot of racket, the dead-pan looks thrown at him by the other contestants were priceless. This is one of the basic elements of conflict that is omnipresent with these shows; the head-on collision of uncomplimentary creative processes can be tragic, but as with most car wrecks, everyone cranes their neck to see if there is any spilled blood.

When the judging commences, with the prerequisite coterie of heavy hitters as judges, the question that is the show's raison d'etre begins to get answered. But, it's only a beginning. Requiring a conceptual, abstract artist to produce a portrait is a trickier proposition than one might expect. As Indianapolis based artist and blogger of all things art, Scott Grow, observes, "I was left wondering, of all the abstract painters I know, how would ANY of them have faired in a portrait challenge and still remain true to their process and vision? How would an artist like Anish Kapoor or Richard Tuttle have faired?"

That question of staying true to process while adhering to what the rules demand will be asked over and over again of the artists on Work of Art: The Next Great Artist. Abstract artist and creative director for Q7 Associates, GK Rowe, points out that, " a good artist, when given rules to abide by, will immediately devise some way of bending the rules."

Rowe adds, "At the end of the day, the show is more about entertainment than art. But, it does raise awareness, and for all of us in the creative world, that is only a good thing. It gets people talking."

For me, I'm happy to see a program for mass consumption centered around art that is contemporary, abstract, and deserving of more exposure.

Image courtesy of Bravo Network

1 comment:

  1. I would say that I agree with GK concerning it being more about entertainment than art, as well as his take on the show being a great way to bring awareness of the art world.

    I like that they have an assortment of different artist types, though I do feel it really begins to feel like they chose assorted caricatures of artists. So be it.

    I guess we can only hope that more people will become interested in the art and gallery scene because of this show, more so than programs like Art 21, which may just be more focused in its attempted outreach.

    Will the "Next Great Artist" truly come out on top, or will the reality and harshness of the art world send them into obscurity with in a few short months or years? Time will tell. Until then, I will more than likely continue to watch the show out of curiosity.