peter schjeldahl on jeff koons
in the june 9/16 new yorker is brilliant. dianne is right — he’s the best art writer out there. reveiwing the koons retrospective at the museum of contemporary art in chicago he succinctly outlines each of koon’s “thematic series, or product lines” before describing a dozen or so pieces. 90% of art critics could get that far, though 10% as well. for fun he tosses a couple of juicy bits about koons and the ex-porn-star-and-ex-wife. but it’s the rest of the article that’s so gorgeous. he grants koons the title “genius” saying “the fifty-three-year-old american enchanter and provocateur is a major artist, in the old sense of one who edits the past and sketches the future of art — in this case, sculpture.” and goes on to beautifully describe why the best koons work but what’s wrong with even the best of it.
can you dislike “balloon dog (orange)” (1994-2000), a ten-foot-high representation, in chromium stainless steel with a coppery tint, of a cartoony canine formed with twists in a long balloon? ( a yellowish twin of the work is one of three koonses currently installed on the roof of the metropolitan Museum, where it gathers funhouse reflections of viewers and the surrounding city, under blue skies turned velvety green.) if you manage not to enjoy the lustous pooch, i don’t understand you. but if you’re afflicted by an attendant feeling of intellectual free fall, in a vacuum of identifiable emotion, we can talk. koons is hugely significant… while finally signifying precious little. that’s my nightmare: an intimation that intelligence is obsloete in a world where things are either blazingly obvious or pitch dark.
schjeldahl is a really smart guy who’s not afraid to have (or admit having) a visceral response. nor is he above making fun of himself.
i remember my first encounter, in germany, in 1992 , with koons’s famous “puppy,” the forty-three-foot-high scottie dog enveloped in living flowers. as i was judiciously taking descriptive and analytical notes, a bus arrived bearing a group of severely disabled children in wheelchairs. they went wild with delight. abruptly feeling absurd, i shut my notebook and took instruction from the kids’ unequivocal verdict.
he ends describing “hanging heart (blue/silver)”
an immense steel heart in dreamy blue with steel ribbons in glittering silver, which greets visitors to the show. passing beneath it, you sense its great weight, perhaps with a touch of physical dread like that stirred by richard serra sculptures. it looks (and is) incredibly costly — and as sweet as dime-store perfume. it apostrophizes our present era of plutocratic democracy, sinking scads of money in a gesture of solidarity with lower-class taste. noblesse oblige, never mind that noblesse isn’t what it used to be. (neither is obligation.) we might wish for a better artist to mainfest our time, but that would probably amount to wanting a better time.
god, i wish i could write like this guy.
in the same issue: the nabokov short story, “natasha” is not brilliant. and the story by annie proulx “tits-up in a ditch” is heinous. i don’t need to be coddled, but i was offended by her throwing everything horrible she could think of at a character and expecting me to take it. enough already.