Sunday, June 23, 2013

Jeff Koons: New Paintings and Sculpture

I had to catch a glimpse of Jeff Koons' "New Paintings and Sculpture" at Gagosian Gallery in New York before it closes July 3rd.  The first thought that came into my head being at this exhibition standing in front of Koons' paintings was: what am I doing here?  What would my old painting professor from SUNY Fredonia think if a student created these paintings?  The student would surely have had to have a damn good explanation at the very least.  Only an artist like Jeff Koons, whose work is highly sought after and sells for millions, could create work like this and show it at the most famous gallery in the world.  So whats the deal?  Am I missing something about this series of "Antiquity" paintings?  Or is this just another example of the power of suggestion and the backwardness of the art world.

I am reminded of art critics Jerry Saltz and Roberta Smith who choose to collect affordable artwork from flea markets and garage sales instead of paying thousands for art exhibited in galleries.  I also think of children's artwork... wonderful drawings and paintings from six and seven-year-olds that I would love to be the proud owner of.  There is something interesting…Koons' "Antiquity" paintings would not gain even a fraction of a fraction of a percent of the attention they are currently gaining if they were made by a student or emerging artist.  In other words, if Michelangelo's David was created by a student at SUNY Fredonia the work of art would be celebrated equally as much as it has been coming from the hands of Michelangelo himself.  On the other hand if the antiquity paintings were found in a students studio at SUNY Fredonia it would gain no recognition whatsoever.  What does all of this tell us?  The artist's name is a brand and art is no longer solely valued according to technical skill or sublimity.

I now understand that the reason why I came to see this exhibition was to question art.  Is this the true function behind Jeff Koons' work...  To force us to question our conception of what is and is not fine art?  It would be easy to either hail him or detest him.  His work is to be reacted to... thought about, talked about, argued about.  After all isn't that the artists job in contemporary society?  

Lastly, I think his sculpture is much more interesting.  His bronze hulk, granite gorilla, and stainless steel ballon sculptures are mesmerizing because of their optical illusion, size, and quirky pop culture imagery.

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