WHO IS THE WORST ARTIST?
I guess that it is no surprise, with figures like Seth Rogen, Justin Bieber and Rand Paul dominating the American landscape, that white male infantilism now dominates the art world. Three deeply regressed whiteys, Joe Bradley, Dan Colen and Rob Pruitt, collected, fawned over by much of the art press and, worst of all, continually exhibited by lazy blue chip dealers, have created a salon of nauseating, tasteless excess.
In a way, you can’t blame them: Damien Hirst gave them permission to unload the contents of a battered psyche into the homes of the stupid wealthy. Bradley, Colen and Pruitt are just doing it on a budget (relative to Hirst, of course). Their indiscriminate aborting of everything that is intelligent in art has the effect of shutting down Marcel Duchamp’s famous dictum that the viewer completes the work. The BCP express shuts down and annihilates the viewer on a high speed rail of stupidity.
So perhaps one can retrieve a morsel of integrity by determining which of the BCP trio makes the worst art. Let’s commence with a bit of negative capability: is there any good work to be found? I confess to having a weakness for Colen’s candle memento mori paintings and Pruitt’s collaborations with l partner Walter Early had a bracing Pop thrill to them, though that was long ago. Bradley, who can’t decide whether to mimic Robert Ryman or Donald Baechler, couldn’t do anything good if he tried, which he doesn’t. One bad vote for Bradley.
Conversely, which artist has made the worst stuff in recent shows? A tough one. Colen’s row of motorcycles at Gagosian, as esthetically awful as they were, had a small touch of Brandoesque humor. Bradley’s painted rectangles at Mitchell, Innes & Nash were one long desert of terrible. But every time Rob Pruitt puts out a portrait of himself in a Warholian context, the sheer mournful ugliness of the results make one roll into the fetal position on the gallery floor. One vote for Pruitt.
Since the politics of personality drives so much of the ignorance and conformity in the contemporary art world these days, the third test, with a tip of the wig to the master Andy Warhol, must be, which artist is the most manipulative? All three are champions of the low-rent personality cult. Pruitt has his awards and pandas. Bad art or not, he has manufactured himself into the simulacrum of a sympathetic figure.
Joe Bradley, whose best asset is the all-American signifier of his own name, has proved himself a manipulator of art dealers on a par with the master of same, Malcolm Morley. After making a splash at Canada, Bradley appears to have worked Zach Feuer off of Gavin Brown for the best deal, ending up, for the nonce, with Brown. But the winner is Colen, who managed, like a Chelsea Julie Taymor, to fabricate a long profile of his studio practice in the New York Times before his tasteless Gagosian exhibition even opened last fall.
Ugh, so that’s a threeway tie for "worst artist." Time for a tie-breaker. Which of the BCP bunch would you NOT wish to be shipwrecked with on a desert island? Well, Colen has a practical side that could produce the needed tent or coconut. Bradley could certainly trade quite well with any putative natives. Rob Pruitt would drive you crazy with his irrelevant showmanship and, after, you prepared him on the spit for dinner, would taste flabbily bland.
Tiebreaker to Pruitt and, for once, Rob, you shall receive an award: the black-and-white bearshit statuette for New York, and the world’s worst artist.
CHARLIE FINCH is co-author of Most Art Sucks: Five Years of Coagula (Smart Art Press).