|Balloon Dog (Yellow), 1994—2000|
Despite all that cold-shouldering by the curators, Koons' oeuvre has emerged among the most famous and high-priced in recent years. And why not? Shiny objects appeal to humans as much as they do to magpies, who collect little glittering baubles for their nests. So it is with rich collectors and their nests, particularly the clientele of Gagosian Gallery, which shows Koons (in addition to Sonnabend Gallery) and is the lead sponsor for the Whitney show and of a companion installation of a giant, floral Split-Rocker at Rockefeller Center. And Koons' sculptures really do shine and glitter; many even make convenient mirrors if you need one in a pinch. But he also knows that simple objects from childhood can be like visual baby blankies or junk food—comforting, reminiscent of innocent times and carefree days before adulthood and its dreary responsibilities set in. Thus, inflatable things—mylar bunnies, flowers, pool toys, balloon animals; plastic stuff, cheery tchotchkes—are the bulk of the subject matter in this multi-floor show. And they make you smile.
I am 8' tall and granite!
|One Ball Total Equilibrium Tank (Spalding Dr. J 241 |
Series), 1985. Nearly nothin' but window.
In between these robust periods, however, we cannot avoid the early '90s Made in Heaven series (when he married Cicciolina, a porn star/politician, and decided to explicitly immortalize their love on photographic canvases and in life-sized 3D). This was when he alienated pretty much everyone (though I have to hand it to Sonnabend Gallery, which stuck by him even through this), and critics found the perfect ammunition to justify dismissing his work as glib and egomaniacal. Before that came the Banality series of tchotchkes in polychromed porcelain—Michael Jackson and Bubbles, Woman in Tub, String of Puppies, and prior to that, the semi-serious statuary collection of pewter-toned replicas of bar paraphernalia, renaissance sculptures, and kitsch. While the show features sculpture, a number of 2D works are on view, including a series based on the power of advertising, and the Easyfun-Ethereal series of funny paintings such as Sandwiches, in which the pseudonymous lunch items are affixed with googly olive-and-pickle eyes and moustaches.
A note on Gagosian's sponsorship: on the one hand, it would seem scandalous that Koons' dealer is underwriting these high-profile exhibitions, but on the other, the clarity is rather refreshing, as opposed to banks and real estate developers trying to bleach their spotty reputations in philanthropy.
The Whitney moves to MePa, or should I say HiLi, after this, with exhibitions planned for next spring in its new 60,000 square foot digs with a river view. The Met will take over the Breuer building on Madison, with its well-proportioned rooms, stone and wood floors, and embroiled history with Landmarks.
Photos by Susan Yung, except Balloon Dog (Yellow), 1994–2000, © Jeff Koons, courtesy the Whitney Museum.