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Month: August, 2014

Jeff Koons Retrospective

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Michael Jackson with Bubbles 1988

People really love to hate Jeff Koons; artists especially. The laundry list of criticisms levied against him are vast and plenty. The fact that he doesn’t  physically make any of his own artworks and they are actually  the factory fabrications of a team of nameless makers seems to rub some people the wrong way.  Marcel Duchamp started that avalanche  a century ago and Warhol had no trouble cashing the cheques as a result of it. One major difference between Koons and the elder statesmen of art is that both Duchamp and Warhol had the technical skill to execute anything that they put their name to. With Jeff Koons it’s not so apparent, but Koons’ power stems from what Duchamp so eloquently pointed out forever ago, is that the idea is where the art lies and the object is just the conduit in which it is communicated. Who cares where the object came from as long as an artist infuses it with their own artistic conception?

New Hoover Celebrity III’s, 1980

New Hoover Celebrity III’s, 1980

So what exactly is Jeff’s conception? This is probably the other major sticking point for his critics. Some people think he doesn’t have one. He is accused of creating super polished art-bling for the super rich. It has no worth except for what it’s worth. Is this where Jeff’s genius lies? Like Warhol said “Making money is art and working is art and good business is the best art.” Jeff Koons’ career trajectory has been cool and very calculated and Jeff is a very clever boy who knew to steal from the best. Take a look at his early vacuum pieces. One part Duchamp one part Dan Flavin and voilà instant art that has an existing built in conception. The vacuum pieces work now more from an 80’s artifact curiosity factor than a neo-dadist sensibility.

One Ball Total Equilibrium (detail) 1985

One Ball Total Equilibrium (detail) 1985

Neo-dadist art eventually morphed and transitioned into Pop art and that is where Koons found his true calling. Jeff Koons is a pop artist perfectionist with the budget of a Hollywood studio. In the beginning he didn’t always have the resources he possess today. He did this by investing in himself. He took all his money and put it into the fabrication of his ideas, sometimes selling them at a loss to help perpetuate his brand. Employing scientists to help you figure out how to make a Dr. J basketball eternally float suspended in time doesn’t come cheap. Casting an inflatable dingy in bronze also doesn’t come cheap; irony costs. Is this where Jeff Koons brilliance lies?

Ushering in Banality 1988

Ushering in Banality 1988

In the late 80’s Jeff Koons hit his stride. He became an expert anthropologist/alchemist, mining the cultural landscape for gold. He could turn led into a precious metal. He could turn the banal into candy and intrigue. He played with materials and surface with astonishing results. His rabbit from this time was an artistic revelation. Koons worked in steel, wood, porcelain and fabrication. His work was a celebration and easy fun.

Play Doh 2014

Play Doh 2014

Jeff Koons throughout his career has channeled his inner child. With works like Play Doh and Balloon Dog playfulness is on display in a monumental way. The facts they are in themselves very grown-up feats of engineering (Play Doh took 10 years to figure out) is invisible. They are made to be loved and when it comes to his Balloon Dogs mission accomplished. In my opinion the Balloon dogs are his most successful works. They work on a conceptual and aesthetic level. In their presence you are impressed by their scale and tickled by their polish. On the flip-side, in every way his sculptures succeed, his paintings fail miserably.

Seal Walrus Chairs 2003

Seal Walrus Chairs 2003

His paintings are meticulous recreations of bad Photoshop collages. When I look at them I just feel sorry for the poor painters who had to waste countless hours of their lives creating unneeded forgettable images. The best of Jeff’s art works because he willed it into existence. The fact that Seal Walrus Chairs exists in itself is ridiculous. Creating painted bronze casts of pool toys trapped in a stack of plastic deck chairs defies all common sense and that is why it works. There is an implied narrative there that none of his paintings exhibit.

Balloon Venus 2013

Balloon Venus 2013

Metallic Venus 2010

Metallic Venus 2010

Popeye 2009

Popeye 2009

The bulk of the metallic sculptures are exercises in execution but ultimately don’t come close to a Rabbit or Balloon Dog. There’s a specificity to them that the stronger work isn’t chained to. It could be any balloon dog among millions as opposed to one Popeye, Hulk or what have you. Inflatables are meant to be inconsequential and not revered as monuments.

Balloon Dog (Yellow) 1994-2000

Balloon Dog (Yellow) 1994-2000

The Whitney has done a good job surveying an international art star’s evolution and success. They have included the good, bad and ugly (Made in Heaven: Koons’ misstep into sex and images). I was looking forward to this show and was not disappointed.  I left wondering: is Jeff Koons a genius? On the one hand, none of this would have happened if it weren’t for the Warhol blueprint ( who in my mind is a genius). On the other hand these ridiculous monuments to the inconsequential were willed into existence by Koons’ creativity and tenaciousness.  Are these important art objects or hyper expensive lawn ornaments for the uber-rich?

Gazing Ball (Belvedere Torso) 2013

Gazing Ball (Belvedere Torso) 2013

Why not go to the Whitney and decide for yourself? The Jeff Koons Retrospective is on until Oct 19th.

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Tara Donovan and teamLab @ Pace

td3August can be a hard month for art lovers. This is traditionally the month that galleries like to take off, close their doors for a while and generally start to prepare for the fall. Every city is the same but no more so than NYC. It feels like the whole of Chelsea has collectively packed their bags and headed for the Hamptons, but even in this sea of ‘see you in September”  notifications was a must see show at Pace Gallery. Split between two spaces; Tara Donovan and teamLab offered two very startling viewing experiences that  both juxtaposed and complimented one another.

Flower and Corpse Glitch 2012 Digital work

Flower and Corpse Glitch 2012 Digital Work

We started with the Japanese artist collective teamLab. The collective is made up of artists, designers, engineers, animators  and so on. Their installation consisted of various monitors and screens displaying short looped animations. They were meant to act as slow kinetic paintings. TeamLab appropriates traditional Japanese subjects and techniques but gives them a modern twist. Virtual ink danced across the surface,trees slowly blossomed, abstract waves swelled and disappeared, birds took flight and a waterfall perpetually rained. The rooms were very dark and the light of the screens bathed the room in a cool and detached glow.

Ever Blossoming Life - Gold 2014 Digital Image

Ever Blossoming Life – Gold 2014 Digital Work

Universe of Water particles 2013 Digital Work

Universe of Water Particles 2013 Digital Work

The works give off a definite futuristic vibe and would not be out of place in the office of some notorious sci-fi villian when Hollywood comes calling. At their best; they were mesmerizing exercises in colour and motion and at their worst veered into the dangerous territory of cheesy decoration. The future is now, but like most futures; there’s still a few kinks to work out.

untitled 2014 acrylic and adhesive

Tara Donovan untitled 2014 acrylic and adhesive

Just up the street from teamLab’s experiment with the near future were two monumental sculptures by New York based artist Tara DonovanDonovan works with everyday materials in exciting and unexpected ways. Her sculptures seem to grow from a single element into organic forms that both mimic and negate nature in equal measures.

untitled detail

untitled detail

untitled detail

untitled detail

She has a wonderful sense of texture. From afar, her work looks soft and inviting but as you approach you slowly make out the sharp corners and stiff materials. The transformation she achieves, makes you want to embrace it even more. Each piece is installed specifically in the space it will inhabit. In this way the work can change and adapt to its surroundings. She also doesn’t like to title her work. She feels naming them would manipulate the viewing experience too much and would rather have the viewer draw their own associations.

untitled 2014 styrene index cards metal wood paint

untitled 2014 styrene index cards metal wood paint

The summer is slowly drawing to a close but as Pace has proven; some shows are worth leaving the beach for.

 

World In My Eyes: New York

empire state reflection

brooklyn bridge reflection

grand central reflection

Dine reflection

mondrian reflection

Guggenheim reflection

Museum reflection

washington square park reflection

Ugolino reflection

Harvesters reflection

Central Park reflection

koons reflection

statue relection

picasso reflection

Vermeer reflection

Love reflection

ps1 reflectionI love New York. It is world class in every way, from art galleries to theater to food to comedy to amazing public spaces to fashion to history to ….. New York’s got it all. This was our third time there, but we could go another dozen times and still feel like we haven’t scratched the surface. They say you’re just visiting a place until you’ve been there a minimum of 2 years and even then the locals will look at you out of the corner of their eye. So if you’re not a local; that definitely makes you a tourist. In the grand scheme of things, tourists may definitely get bad raps, but at some point or another, we should all get to wear that badge. So when you do, wear it well and if you don’t know – ask.

If you like waiting in lines, than New York is the place for you. The lines can be very long, but usually the thing at the end of them is amazing. We definitely stood in our fair share this time around, with these 3 being the highlights: tickets for The Daily Show with Jon StewartSt. Vincent live in Prospect Park and last but not least the incredible John Lithgow as King Lear in Shakespeare in the ParkAll three were free, hence the crazy lines. We were fortunate to be surrounded by extremely friendly people sharing our fate. Good conversation makes the wait time fly by and the locals we met gave us countless great recommendations. So if you know you’re going to be there for a while, I say get to know your neighbours.

Speaking of recommendations, here’s a few food ones: the potato knish at Yonah Schimmel Knish Bakery on Houston is tasty, filling, cheap and brilliant. New York is world renown for its pizza, but which one is best? I wouldn’t even try to attempt to answer this riddle, but I can definitely say Juliana’s in Brooklyn has got to be in the running. Lastly, if you have a sweet tooth; the banana pudding at the Magnolia Bakery will blow your mind.

Asides from Lear we saw some great shows. Joe Machi at Caroline’s killed despite losing his voice. If you like live comedy then The Comedy Cellar is a must. When we there, Aziz Ansari dropped in unannounced and did close to an hour of new material. Book of Mormon is hilarious and well worth the ticket. The free ghost tour of Greenwich Village is great if you want to see where Mark Twain supposedly haunts or where Sid Vicious left this mortal coil.

Lastly, New York has got some of the most iconic works of art on the planet housed in some of the greatest galleries in the world. For us, this is the main reason we come to New York. If you only have a few days in the city; the Met is mind-boggling or MOMA (spoil of riches) are the two I would recommend. If you have more time; other galleries you should definitely get to are the Cloisters (the Unicorn Tapestries are a must see), Brooklyn Museum (Judy Chicago’s Dinner Party is just crazy), The New Museum, The Folk Art Museum (Henry Darger’s Realms of the Unreal is there) and MOMA PS1 are all brilliant. Of the 36 paintings Vermeer executed in his lifetime; 8 are on view in NYC between the Met and the Frick alone. This was the first time we made it to the Frick and it did not disappoint. (If you go on Sundays between 11-1, it is pay what you want.) Another great thing to do is walk along the High Line and visit some of the galleries in Chelsea. We also saw the Jeff Koons retrospective at the Whitney (review coming soon).

Oh New York New York we’ll be back.

 

Related post: World in my Eyes: Chicago