Sunday, August 24, 2014

Jeff Koons!!! @ The Whitney

After a somewhat arduous journey to New York’s Manhattan Island I arrived at the Jeff Koons Whitney Retrospective last week. It is truly; in every way, with no doubt, Jeff  Koons. The exhibition is everything you have ever heard (or known) about the pitchman/artist; everything! Koons touts his work as a celebration of banality but the irony is the show itself in spite of the scale, shiny mirror sheen and pop/art references is largely itself an actual bore. It is also the most important exhibition in the world at this time and will only be seen in museums in two other countries. The Pompidou Center in France and the Bilbao in Spain will also house this extravagant behemoth of a retrospective. 
Koons has never really intended his art for anyone other than the one or point zero-zero one percent. In that he has succeeded like no one else. He sustains the record for the highest price ever paid for the work of a living artist ($58.4m.) The pieces are essentially a point for bragging rights for the owners. “Look; I own a Jeff koons…see how rich I am!” Koons is the tailor selling the emperor his new clothes while the emperor is well aware and enjoying the con. 

There is a refined; assembly line precision to the works. I also; at times, had the feeling of walking through a very high-end Walmart. Especially around the Hoovers encased like a Damien Hirst Shark and the floating basketballs. “Pick-Up in isle six!” At other times it seemed like a huge yard sale; somewhere to unload a huge amount of expensive “dust collectors” or garden shop plaster academic style yard sculptures in order to purchase newer, statelier, brighter ones. As I walked through the Koons retro I couldn’t miss seeing a small probably six or seven year old girl skipping through the galleries in a state of contentment and glee. I imagine it gave her the feeling of navigating her way through the objects of some fairy tale giant’s collection of porcelain nick knacks.   In her mind she could have been an extra in one of Disney’s films like “Honey; I Shrunk The Kids” or “Babes in Toy Land.” 

There was another young woman, probably in her twenties posing in front of selected pieces for her father. She was intent on getting the look and stance of a sculpture that looked like an enlarged dime store toy gorilla. She then did the same with the image of “The Incredible Hulk” represented in a painting. When I say her heading for a Koons’ original from the “Made in Heaven” series I was reluctant to look and quickly moved on. I can only imagine what she did in front of it.  “Made in Heaven” is a series of pornographic photo realist paintings and sculptures by Koon’s of Koons and his former Porn Star wife in totally explicit and erotic poses.  Is there nothing that is not for sell or display by Koons?

People were enjoying the exhibition in many ways. Photo flashes were a constant and it was quite the circus for many jockeying for position in front of and around various selected works.  I have to admit that I have enjoyed the work of Jeff Koons in other venues. I have seen his work at The La County Museum of Art, SFMOMA and at Gagosian’s Miami Basel booth last December. Each time Koons was immersed amongthe works of other contemporaries including John Baldessari, Barbara Kruger and Chris Ofili. 

It gave a balance to what Koons is attempting with his art. That is besides making tons of money.  His is a reaction to the concept and idea of art. He has gone beyond other artists into the forces behind the perfected viewing and purchasing of art as commodity. When looking for anything deeper in the work we are literally confronted with a mirror reflection of ourselves and the surrounding objects. Imagine a carnival funhouse set of mirrors with Koons serving as the narcissistic barker and we the rubes.     

Sunday, August 17, 2014

The Art, Fashion & Style of Kanye West

For all his blusterous bad-behavior and ballistic bile, Kanye West possess a certain sense of style, refinement and knowledgeable taste in regards to fashion and the arts.  Kanye is a man/child blessed with talent; the ability to compose intricate Raps as he dresses well and completes drawings that are much better than good. West is also able to solicit the great artists of his time and collaborates frequently with those peers. Talents to note and include are Takashi Murakami, George Condo and Rapper/Mogul Jay-Z.   

West is a champion of the art of media manipulation as is evident in the attention given his recent wedding; while orchestrating and including the Vogue Magazine cover featuring himself and his then bride to be Kim Kardashian. Another important recent artistic feat for West was the February Interview Magazine cover story and immensely innovative and provocative photo spread (many of the photos included here) highlighting the radical artist. He continues to release new music and videos while developing a fashion line conforming to his unique sensibilities and ideals. This month’s issue for the fashion conscience male; GQ displays West at his best and highlights his monochromatic flair for originality and compositional matches and pairings. An arresting interview explaining his inner dinosaur and blowfish are found inside it pages too.  

One of Kanye’s best and most interesting art pieces is his “Heartless” video. West produced and essentially directed this tribute to the inspired animation of Ralph Bakshi. The classic Bakshi film release “American Pop” is the background and driving force of the West video. Scenes are recreated directly from  Bakshi’s superb animated Historical Fiction. It tells the story through several generations of an immigrant family’s journey and escape from Russia during the Bolshevik Revolution to the United States.   They eventually achieve both political and musical freedom as they find their place in life and the world. I’m certain West sees a comparison to his personal life and struggles in the narrative. Within the video West includes a nod to Warhol and the American classic Hanna-Barbara studios. 


In the course of his career West is often infuriating and polarizing but he is never short of surprise, invention and “the shock of the new.” Kanye West remains among the seminal artists and fashion mavericks of this; his times.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

In Heaven

"Large Turf"  Albrect Durer

In Heaven
Stephen Crane

In heaven,
Some little blades of grass
Stood before God.

"What did you do?"

Then all save one of the little blades
Began eagerly to relate
The merits of their lives.
This one stayed a small way behind,


Presently, God said,
"And what did you do?"

The little blade answered, "Oh my Lord,
Memory is bitter to me,
For, if I did good deeds,
I know not of them."
Then God, in all His splendor,
Arose from His throne.

"Oh, best little blade of grass!" He said.