Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Jeff Koons

After much procrastination (because my previous history with the artist’s work is mixed), I finally took in the big Jeff Koons retrospective at the Whitney Museum. Even on a weekday morning the line to pay was long (though I was able to get in straightaway as a handicapped person). Inside, the crowds had an almost carnivalesque exuberance - with many small children (some pieces not being exactly suitable for them).

The objects benefited by being grouped thematically. Let me get my pet peeves out of the way directly, I detest the vacuum cleaners and volley balls in their glass cases. Ostensibly an exercise in the institutional theory of art (“if it’s shown in a museum, it is art”), these monstrosities cut a poor figure compared with their models, the iconic readymades of Marcel Duchamp.

I did not mind the sex scenes with Cicciolina, since sexual display is part of our culture now. Some of the bubble sculptures are quite enchanting. You can see yourself mirrored in the larger ones. There are quite a few good acrylic paintings.

In my view, the best pieces are the very latest ones, which play off classical sculpture. Centering this group is a superb knockoff of Bernini’s “Pluto and Proserpina.” Unlike most of the objects, which reference popular culture, these pieces work best with a knowledge of art history.

There are some photos of the artist in the basement. Jeff Koons is himself a Jeff Koons. His face is handsome but in a generic, almost plastic fashion. Maybe he retouched them to get this effect - or maybe that is just the way he is.