Emptiness and AUDI on BRAVO’s Work of Art, Episode 5

Last week on BRAVO’s art reality TV show,Work of Art: The Next Great Artist, the artist contestants were given the challenge of driving three Audi cars from the Audi showroom to 47th & Park, and then making a piece based on their journey. The Audi drive was not only a cheesy challenge, it was a clear example of sponsorship placement within the show.

Any commercial artist would see this as an excellent opportunity to hop on board with Audi. And why not? Much like the UBS sponsor at Art Basel Miami Beach, Audi could be a real asset to artists looking for investors. Of course, that would mean catering to Audi, and making work that reflects positively on the brand.

Luckily the point of this show is not to create a “work of art” catering to a sponsor.  If so, the sponsor should be straight up and transparent about this, lest it become a conflict of interest and artists be judged on it as such. Still, I found the idea of creating a “work of art” based on the Audi experience to be devoid of any real artistic purpose.

That being said, Ryan Schulz’s piece, though incredibly boring and realistic, should have won. He captured the emptiness of this challenge. Cars are status symbols, and I rank Audis in the same category as Volkswagons. In our consumer culture, the car you drive represents something about the identity that you are trying to project into the world. Ryan’s realistic painting of him, looking cool and wearing a pair of plastic 1980s sunglasses while driving down the street, captures this void, and the emptiness of his own artist image.

WORK OF ART: THE NEXT GREAT ARTIST -- Episode 105 -- Pictured: Work by Ryan -- Photo by: Barbara Nitke/Bravo

Peregrine Honig was overtly disgusted by the challenge, creating a piece that played with words that rhymed with Audi, like Gaudi, Saudi, Haudi, Raudi, all close enough to the words gaudy, rowdy, howdy and,  the actual word Saudi, that the joke worked. She then created brass knuckles out of the Audi logo, adding an additional gross element to a piece that already communicated her annoyance at the vacuous challenge. In an artist statement about the piece, she says “I was pleased with myself for making a bratty joke.”

WORK OF ART: THE NEXT GREAT ARTIST -- Episode 105 -- Pictured: Work by Peregrine -- Photo by: Barbara Nitke/Bravo

Then there’s Jaclyn Santos’ male gaze commentary. It’s no surprise that she turned the focus back on her hypersexualized body, which she is clearly obsessed about. In every episode thus far, Jaclyn has shown viewers that she is just another heterosexual woman obsessed with her body image. At least she took a moment to bring in something slightly more theoretically engaging, but still her piece was a self-indulgent, narcissistic display of her own insecurities.  I hope she attempts to do something that isn’t about her breasts this week, but I doubt that will happen.

WORK OF ART: THE NEXT GREAT ARTIST -- Episode 105 -- Pictured: Work by Jaclyn -- Photo by: Barbara Nitke/Bravo

Mark’s meaningless minimal painting is not even worth mentioning. It was obvious to all that he was plumb out of ideas. The fact that he’s still on the show and Amanda, the African-American artist from Chicago, is not, puzzles me to no end.

In terms of quality of work, Work of Art is incredibly disappointing. Artists like Jaclyn and Ryan cannot get out of themselves enough to make work that has any depth or meaning; Peregrine is getting frustrated, which is a shame because her work suffers for it; Mark’s painting is plain shit; Abdi seems to be copying Ryan’s narcissism with his “superhero” painting of himself driving. The fact that the two more experimental, queer artists—Nao Bustamante and John Parot—have been booted makes this show even less interesting than when it began.

Miles has proven himself to be the lovable art school hipster, and it seems like he may take home the prize. Rumors are circulating that he has in fact faked his OCD, and that his entire performance is exactly that—a performance. If so, he should win just for being able to carry on such an act.

And Erik? How about him? He has been typecast as the “self-taught” artist, and I am also shocked that he’s still on the show. His work has been consistently boring, literal and amateur. I can’t get the terrible clown image from a few episodes back out of my head. This week he painted his girlfriend against a background that looks like his tattoo sleeve. What does that have to do with Audi?

WORK OF ART: THE NEXT GREAT ARTIST -- Episode 105 -- Pictured: Work by Nicole -- Photo by: Barbara Nitke/Bravo

But my real question is why was Nicole Nadeau’s piece, Suspension, brushed aside by the judges? Nicole has consistently created quiet, yet at times beautiful, work that gets hardly any play. Her personality is subdued. She’s not trying to shock or prove anything. But in an Art World rat race to the top, can an artist who isn’t loud and obnoxious actually—gasp!—win anything?