I cannot begin to express how much I dislike China Chow. I dislike everything about her and when she turns to the “winner” and says, “You made a true work of art,” I just wanna send her to her room for a permanent time-out.
A list-serve friend described episode seven as “a quantum leap down.” That sums it up pretty well. The challenge was inane, the work ranged from dull to incompetent, and the arena, the “Children’s Museum of the Arts” in the SoHo neighborhood seemed more about humiliating the adult without than liberating the child within. Too bad Judith wasn’t still in the group—she had demonstrated great digital control in finger-painting her cover for Pride and Prejudice (aka Edirp dna Edidujerp).
Telling people to “dig deep” into their childhoods for ideas and approaches that create great, or even good art, heck, anything anyone would describe as art at all, and locking them up in a pre-school art closet, must be outlawed somewhere in the Geneva Conventions. Clearly there are reasons a great many of us resist revisiting our childhoods. Childhood, moreover, often has nothing to do with the reasons someone becomes an artist.
One of the sillier and time-worn tropes of “the great artist” is the assertion of the precocious and gifted child. Vasari tells of Cimabue in the thirteenth century discovering the boy Giotto drawing in the dust with a stick as he tends some sheep. Picasso advanced his own mythology, claiming that, “I have never done children’s drawings. Never… I remember one of my first drawings. I was perhaps six, or even less. In my father’s house there was a statue of Hercules with his club…and I drew Hercules. But it wasn’t a child’s drawing. It was a real drawing…” In fact, Picasso was at least nine years old at the time. In the late twentieth century, along with the American passion for arrested development, there began a mad search for ever younger artists. Retrospectives for artists who have not yet achieved their fortieth birthdays are now common but Willem de Kooning was forty-four when he had his first one-man show.
Let’s flog the dead horse of program concept.
Nicolas Poussin, the supreme classicist of the seventeenth century outlined the values of the “Grand Manner” in painting which he and an army of contemporaries regarded as the definition of “good art.” Of primary importance was the choice of subject matter. “The first requirement,” he wrote, “fundamental to all others, is that the subject and narrative be grandiose, such as battle, heroic actions, and religious themes.” Lesser themes, ones that did not ennoble the spirit and elevate the mind, were to be avoided. Poussin was quite clear on that: “Those who choose base subjects find refuge in them because of the feebleness of their talents.”
Let us not get distracted by the archaic usage word “grandiose” or the list of particular subjects. Poussin’s point was that important art cannot be made from trivial ideas. Triviality, of course, is the life blood of reality television.
Jerry Saltz came close to articulating a worthy framework for this challenge when, during the critique, he referred to William Blake’s great cycle of poems, Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience. The idea of childhood, of innocence, discovery, loss and change are all worthy themes in art. What if the group had been challenged to think about “innocence and experience” and then allowed to work with mediums of their own choice in the relatively serious space of the studio? What if, instead of being asked to find inspiration in that Lilliputian playroom, they had been taken to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and given time to meditate on visions of children through the ages?
WANGA has been so completely devoid of art history, of anything other than some of the less shining lights of the contemporary art world, that the very idea of expecting them to produce a “great work of art” is simply laughable.
They’ve been constrained to navel-gazing for seven episodes. I am not surprised that all anyone is finding is lint.
Oh, yeah, Peregrine won and Ryan was sent home.