Koons’ site here. Part 1 of a 5-part documentary above.
I often find myself reacting to modern art and pop art, like many people, with my bullshit detector continually sounding at a low buzz. Are these great artists? What has happened at the intersection between art, money, and media in the ‘modern’ world? Is there any ‘there’ there?
Koons’ Made In Heaven only amplifies that sound, blurring the line between art and porn, private experience and public show, innocence (so easily corrupted) and naive, narcissistic indulgence.
I suspect Made In Heaven explores previous themes of high and low that were already emerging in his kitsch work, fleshed out in pieces like Michael Jackson And Bubbles, Winter Bears and on this site: ‘St John The Baptist’.
This is kitsch par excellence, exquisitely rendered. I admit that I can still break out into laughter while staring at it, admiring Koons’ ability to use his materials to realize a very particular concept, and to execute that concept and evoke what might even be a particular emotion in onlookers. The quality and finish of these pieces is high and Koons works in various materials, including porcelin, metal, wood, and mixed media. Like Warhol, he’s set up a studio with workers churning out his art. There is no doubt some genuine artistic ability there, creative imagination, vision, and devotion to his craft.
On what he was trying to achieve:
‘This type of dislocated imagery is what motivates people. They’re amused by it, but they have a lot of guilt and shame that they respond to it. I was trying to remove that guilt and shame.’
Another quote which highlights an idea of some import to the nation:
‘Coming from a suburban, middle-class background, as he did, he felt that there was something, if not dignified, at least, too easily discarded about this kind of imagery and this kind of sentiment.’
In a way, Koons could be seen as quintessentially American, taking the country, its lack of refinement as an artist might see it, its marketing and advertising, the products of its egalitarian spirit and consumer culture into his embrace. By recalling his own experiences and trying to provide deeper context (and by constantly self-promoting), he certainly has a commitment to America. This raises questions of perpetual interest to those who see their duty in making, criticizing, curating, buying and enjoying art. It also coincides with a larger movement.
From the video:
‘I think that Warhol, as radical as he seems, still very much prized the idea of originality at the core of his working process, and it’s hard not to see him as being a very original artist in that sense. The idea of Koons rejecting all originality, I think, is central to understanding what his work was about.’
‘The way Andy predicted celebrity, Jeff predicted branding.’
I don’t doubt for a second there’s a bright, aesthetically inclined teenager out there laying under the illuminating glow of a Thomas Kinkade signed print.
As posted before, Camille Paglia is a child of the 60’s, wants better art education, and is sympathetic to themes found on this blog:
Such artistic impulses also have to deal the rest of America’s bustle and mass culture. Some of our best-known exports to the world are made by groups of us here at home, organized in certain ways. Examples abound, from Hollywood movies to McDonalds and Starbucks to our politics to Mars exploration, but we Americans have a real talent for this kind of thing, and Koons seems to be trying to hold up a mirror to our desires and the culture. Naturally, this creates tension between the individual and the society, what kind of society we have, and what kind of society we ought to have.
Here’s another quote from the video:
‘Koons like to fill things, blow them up, and make his own breath last forever. He’s interested in eternity, in immortality.’
That’s probably worth thinking about.
***Robert Hughes wrote a review for Time entitled the “Princeling Of Kitsch.”
***The day that Damien Hirst put up his works, selling them for $111 million dollars, the market crashed.
Related On This Site: Martha Nussbaum wants to take religion out of the laws, and also has ideas about shame and disgust. I’m not necessarily convinced by the type of secular moral thinking she wants to guide society. From The Reason Archives: ‘Discussing Disgust’ Julian Sanchez Interviews Martha Nussbaum
Roger Scruton says keep politics out of the arts, and political judgment apart from aesthetic judgment…this includes race studies/feminist departments/gay studies etc.: Roger Scruton In The American Spectator Via A & L Daily: Farewell To Judgment