Was I ever wrong. I didn’t think “Work of Art: The Next Great Artist” would go for Abdi’s tearing at heartstrings over the more conceptual and detached art of Peregrine and Miles. In fact, I was wrong from the beginning, betting on Miles and Jaclyn.
Was I had by the producers who edit these kinds of shows to misdirect us? Or is this just the way things go? Probably a little of both.
First, something about the venue. If the Brooklyn Museum of Art were in the Bronx, I’d probably go more, but I hardly ever make it into that particular borough. This finale gives a nice boost to an institution that needs it right now. I’m also glad they left Manhattan for the final prize. Yes, Abdi’s winnings, aside from the $100,000, is to be able to mount his show at the museum. (Not an uncontroversial use of museum space, but hey.)
Unlike ex-rival Jaclyn Santos, Abdi Farah is very cautious when depicting the human body, particularly his. His figurative sculptures are beautiful, but the running shorts and sneakers makes it look more like something from Macy’s window. Ever the good Protestant (I assume), he appears to be uncomfortable with depicting the naughty bits. His show, “Luminous Beings,” quotes 1 Corinthians 13:12 on his wall. “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”
Abdi explains his theme is how “the beauty of humanity has been covered up in so many ways.” (Like in jogging shorts and sneakers?) Still, the show was beautiful, profound and even luminary David LaChapelle seemed moved; Jerry Saltz, who seems to prefer a more intellectual approach to art, wasn’t having it.
Miles Mendenhall gave us images of a homeless man at White Castle, providing the backstory that the man died later on a bench outside the restaurant. (I’m guessing Miles offed the man to improve the narrative.) Then he zoomed in again and again on the pixels in Photoshop to achieve patterns and grids completely unconnected to the subject. Cold.
Peregrine Honig was kind of neato — a candy-colored carnival installation with a dark side that brought into coherence vomit, dead twin fawns under glass, and cotton candy. Judges appreciated the storytelling and how well she communicated her vision, but felt that it needed editing down. Not all the works held up next to some very strong pieces.
“Work of Art” is the talk of the insider art world. The format that up until this summer was used to debate the work of hair stylists, fashion designers and interior decorators well with this loftier arena.
Postscript: I hear the works of art aren’t property of the artists. When Simon said that an additional incentive was that a winning piece will be auctioned in his gallery, artists responded as if it’s a great honor, but it looked like an armed robbery to me.
Impossible dream: If only Sister Wendy, the last popular figure I can remember discussing art on television, were here to join the panel.
Finalists’ respective websites: