In the opening of Street Art Throwdown, the contestants meet for the first time and size each other up. After Cameron (a.k.a Camer1) explains he’s a pastor, Annie Preece (a.k.a. Love Annie) responds:
Not typical words uttered to a Man of the Cloth. Then again, we understand the sentiment. Because one of these things is not like the others…
(Next on Oxygen: Preachers of Street Art)
Annie then observes “there’s more chicks than dudes” among the contestants and adds that women who do street art “have to work twice as hard to get the respect.” This is something everyone agrees on, but the tables are turned in this competition with the women outnumbering men six to four. See the contestants in the gallery below.
One non-female contestant who will also need to work twice as hard to get respect is Ivan (a.k.a. Gath). From San Bernardino, he’s only 18 years old and praying that his peach fuzz will make his opponents underestimate him.
Once the contestants finish feeling each other out, host and judge and artist extraordinaire Justin BUA break dances onto the scene. Literally.
The contestants hoot their approval as BUA runs down a long list of legitimately impressive artistic and career achievements — none cooler or more apropos than this:
They say a picture says a thousand words. This one says: “Unless you were tagging NYC subways in the early '80s... sit down and shut up and learn a little somethin' from the O.G."
Co-judge and gallery director Lauren Wagner is also introduced and together they explain the rules of the game. Each episode will start with a Hustle Challenge that tests the artists’ street skills and end with a Throwdown Challenge that will push the their “artistic stamina to the limits.” One contestant will be eliminated at the end of each episode. But, most importantly, BUA reveals that the winner of the show will get $100K. REPEAT: $100,000 dollars!
You can see what the artists are thinking by looking at their faces. Vanessa Espinoza, who goes by Agana, has this reaction.
And everyone else is having visions of Kanye making it rain!
The contestants are told the game starts now, and they must scale a nearby building and paint their signature throwie or character on a rooftop billboard overlooking the city. Ladie One from Florida suffers the first casualty.
But she gets up, dusts herself off, and does like an ant when she carries off a ladder 10 times her body size.
Before long it's judging time. There are two standout artists and two who "struggled." Marley Miner-Davis, a.k.a. Marley Billie D, is in the latter camp with this.
Which she accomplished by finger painting since she doesn't "spray paint on the regular." We're intrigued, Marley. Please, continue... "I'm doing this expressionistic type of style and as i look around no other artist is doing the same thing that I'm doing so I'm very confident," she said about the challenge. It doesn't occur to Marley that maybe no one else is doing what she's doing because they all know better. Finger painting might be cool in kindergarten or even for a fine art project, but in a graffiti competition? BUA says she has no can control and tells her what most street artists already know: "Finger painting is not the best way for people to see your image from far."
Kristin Adamczyk, a.k.a. SpecialK, joins Marley in the bottom two with her painting of a girl eating cereal.
"She's just a muse, with big boobs," says Kristin, smiling and giggling and batting her beautiful lashes. Wait a minute... Are those "big boobs" meant to distract BUA from her half-assed hands? Regardless, BUA is not happy the hands are so small in proportion to the face and he points out the girl doesn't even have a pinky. Kristin says she wasn't aiming for painting hands that were "atomically" correct. It's hard to tell what bothers BUA more: Kristin blundering the word "anatomically" or not caring about rendering realistic hands in the first place.
The two standout artists are Agana and Camer1. Cameron's work reads like a full-on autobiography.
In addition to the piece's main element (his character), he explains that the bridge represents his beloved San Francisco (ES Ef, according to his baseball cap), the crosses represent his faith, and he also includes a shout-out to his wife. Lauren says the quality of the work that Camer1 has finished in the amount of time he was given is nothing less than amazing.
Agana says her picture represents a "powerful, strong woman and how it's so important to have a voice, especially being a woman."
BUA is stoked about her "can control." Lauren says, "You got up high and you told us a really personal story." And Agana wins the challenge.
For the Throwdown Challenge, in which one artist will get eliminated, the contestants are brought to a remote wilderness area and introduced to their guest judge, who is none other than Mear One a.k.a. "The King of West Coast Graffiti" a.k.a. "The Michelangelo of Graffiti" a.k.a. He Who Made the Contestants Shake in Their Knees.
The contestants will be creating portraits of someone who inspired them and the judges want them to convey a story and evoke emotion. But there's a catch. Turns out everyone is standing on top of underground tunnels that stretch on for miles and date back to World War II. They'll need headlamps and maps to find their way to their final resting work space. Annie can already see the writing on the wall - and it looks a lot like a scene from the movie Willard.
For winning the Hustle Challenge, Agana gets to pass go, collect $200, grab a latte, get her hair did, catch a matinee and be deposited straight into the work space to select her wall of choice while everyone else is scurrying like rats through the underground maze. Lauren tells the contestants they must race to the supplies and grab what they can before entering the tunnels, and this is where things devlolve into a scene from The Hunger Games.
We suspect a few of the artists were looking for objects like shanks as they were scooping up as many paint cans and brushes as possible. The contestants don't fair well underground. Peach Fuzz says the tunnels are scary, observing there are rats and it's hot and smelly. Annie, who's claustrophobic, says: "I think I'm going to die," and then half the contestants get hopelessly lost. The whole scene illustrates why these people became artists and not soldiers.
In the end, the judges decide on two artists whose portraits stood out and three who failed to impress them. Agana is among the top two again with this portrait of her aunt:
But Grimnasty, who also painted a portrait of his aunt, wins the challenge.
Not only do the judges think his portrait is "alive and electric," he has a touching story about his aunt raising him as her own. Mear One loves how the feathers fly off of the scarf and come to life. BUA says he's sold on the piece and on the story. Grimnasty and Agana are free to leave the room and the bottom three are left standing to ponder their fate: Ladie One, Ivan and Marley.
Lauren thinks Ladie One's portrait of her mother lacks emotion and BUA notes the basic structure of her face is off. Mear One says Marley's portrait just isn't far enough along and he has problems with its composition, especially the amount of "dead space" in the work. As for Ivan, BUA says his portrait shows his immaturity as an artist. He doesn't have an understanding of how to use color to convey emotion.
But it's Marley who is asked to pack up her bags and head home. The judges believe she has potential as an artist but she's being held back by confidence issues.
Let's recap what we learned so far. Artists need to start with a solid foundation. "Can Control" is critical and has nothing to do with opening cans of soup or tuna. BUA may have a fetish for well-rendered hands. It is important to convey emotion through color. The top contenders so far seem to be Agana, Grimnasty, and Camer1. Come back next week to see which artists will make it a step closer to the $100K and which artist will get blown away, "atomically." Until then!