A Piece of Work: Watching Bravo’s Art Reality Show So You Don’t Have To – Episode 5

In episode five, all the art that was fit to print, and a piece that was so bad, it just wasn’t good

Mr. Smith will nevertheless go to the “world-famous” Brooklyn Museum. For, although on TV the artist created a work that awkwardly invoked a Broadway show he hadn’t seen in order to discuss organized religion, outside of Bravoland he makes art that actually addresses issues that matter to him. One result of all this real-world art-making is Question Bridge: Black Males, a collaborative project that in 2012 will be mounted at the Brooklyn Museum, the Oakland Museum and the Sundance Film Festival. The piece “uses video to create a question-and-answer exchange between black men of different backgrounds,” Mr. Smith says, “and examines the idea of black male identity in America in a way that allows black males to actually define themselves in their own words.”

When asked what, given his interest in depictions of racial identity, it was like to be the sole black artist on the show, Mr. Smith replied, “If you’re the only black person in a situation you’re always going to be representing black people in the minds of America, whether people admit it or not, whether people are aware of it or not,” adding, “Black people will be judged based on something that Michael Vick does, whereas white people aren’t necessarily judged or assessed by what a white celebrity does.” Hmm. We’re thinking that a piece inspired by a headline about how a dog-fighting scandal sent the first African-American quarterback to be selected first overall in an NFL draft to jail … well, the whackness of that could have made for something intriguing.

CONCLUSION: “If the artist can’t feel everything that humanity feels, if the artist isn’t capable of loving until he forgets himself and sacrifices himself if necessary, if he won’t put down his magic brush and head the fight against the oppressor, then he isn’t a great artist,” China Chow once famously said. Oh, wait, no—that was Diego Rivera.

editorial@observer.com