Valerie J. Christell

Finding great art…in a box

By - Jun 12th, 2010 04:00 am
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Let’s find some “real” art. Where’s the best place to look?  No, not in museums or galleries, but on reality T.V., of course — in that glowing box that produces those low beta waves that promise to lull one into complacency.

There are now certainly enough of these shows aimed at the arts:  American Idol, Dancing with the Stars (can you truly say break a leg?), Gordon Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen (who chooses them anyway? Is the goal to give Gordon a heart attack?), America’s Got Talent (the multi-disciplinary opportunity to poke fun) and Project Runway (with its obvious transformation from presenting the creative process to inane drama among the contestants).

But the powers that be decided that there’s been a giant hole in all of this where the visual arts should be, and they know that people have felt the emptiness. Well, not to worry. June 2010 has brought us Work of Art:  The Next Great Artist.

After months of my commiserating with others in the arts whose creative areas have been assaulted thanks to the belief that surely individuals’ fascination with ogling accidents, both physical and personal, extends into the arts, it’s now my turn to experience the feeling of the, might I say, desecration of the visual arts.

To date, my colleagues’ responses have ranged from screaming at the television in the style of the best of sports fanatics, to opting for the head-in-the-sand posture, hoping against hope that when the grit falls from the eyelids, that it was just a bad dream. Needless to say, neither of these choices has successfully thwarted the shows.  The power may rest with the corporations who, determined to dumb down society, are willing to spend the money required to force viewership via the “there’s nothing on so I’ll watch this” syndrome.

Or the sad truth may be that this is truly what the majority of viewers actually want.

So Work of Art rears its ominous head, following in the footsteps of the best of the best (worst) of this genre of mind-numbing activities. It’s difficult to imagine that the goal of this show would be for the essence of the artistic process to be revealed, or for the viewers to be inspired to research other artists or experience a significant conversation about what art is, much less what “great” art might be.

With great trepidation, I turned on Bravo. I would have liked to have been able to prime myself for the presentation of the wonders of the creative processes of these 14 up-and-coming artists, chosen from thousands, who would present their work in exchange for profound discourse by erudite jurors. Yet hoping for the best already seemed futile, and I hadn’t even seen the first episode (the advertisements actually were enough).

So I made sure I wouldn’t be alone and contacted a number of artists to cajole them into watching what most admitted they truly wanted to avoid. I must say that this made me somehow feel better.

In the end, while the viewing the interactions of a new cacophony of stereotypes, accompanied by surface conversations and mere sight bites of art, I likened my situation to one involved in a grotesque psychology experiment, complete with toothpicks prying my eyes open with my head locked in place by an unforgiving metal structure.  There was no getting away from it.

But I survived, and the results are in. Aided by the comments of those who joined me in this venture, I think perhaps one of the juror’s statements sums up the reaction to this show’s direction with his in-depth, articulate analysis of the result of an artist’s engagement in the creative process: “it’s bad art.”

Valerie J. Christell is an artist and curator who teaches art history and studio art at Alverno College and is Founder/Gallery Director of Merge Gallery. She exhibits nationally and internationally through juried, invitational and group exhibitions, creates activist art installations and supports area arts organizations in an advisory capacity.

0 thoughts on “Finding great art…in a box”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Valerie – what a great review (great sense of anticipation!) And what a sad conclusion! I myself am writing music, movie, tv premiere and book reviews on the internet – contact me – it’s Christina Z.,! (And I’m still doing collages!)

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