Tuesday, April 21

Peg leg liberty bell

I think this is going to end up being about learning to love Jeff Koons.....
I generally feel a sense of urgent anxiety when visiting museums to see the blockbuster exhibition/featured solo show/what-not that drew me there. The Los Angeles County Museum is a sprawling complex unto itself, so I was doubly-sure to allow enough time for each piece, wall text, slow moving tourist, docent group, etc. On this particular day, I guess we started walking up the stairs and the momentum dropped us one floor too far up. I don't usually plan for the unexpected, but I am glad to embrace it when it pops up in front of me.
LACMA is currently exhibiting work from the Broad Art Collection in one of their newish buildings and they have an impressive selection from artists like John Baldessari and Cy Twombly. But what I walked in to was a familiar shiny balloon dog and Michael Jackson's monkey. My introduction to Jeff Koons work has been in relation to silly adolescent artwork that glorifies all things kittenish and neon and spray-painted. But if I had not been beaten with a PaperRad stick for the past few years, I would never realize how smart Jeff Koons really is. Those kids had it wrong. Kitsch is certainly an easy route to take with an artwork, giving a very obvious point of entry for the viewer. What defines his work is his examination of the viewer's perceptions of these surfaces through changing things like scale, material, orientation. The baroque paintings take fragments of pop culture produced through a painstakingly exact hand process. A ceramic and gold figurine is scaled large, showing its faults in representation. Koons takes what appears fantastic and makes it unsettling by balancing its seductive qualities with its return of diminished satisfaction. I think that I finally appreciated how these works did not simply lampoon the bizarre objects that are perceived of as valuable by what is assumed to be the general populous; they bring into question our valuing of any object. They are, after all, million dollar objects particularly fabricated by an army of skilled artists and designers for an industry of museums and collectors not too different than any other market.
I was, again, completely surprised at my sudden attraction and appreciation of this work. Looking back, how weird is it that the museum employee that originally started talking to me about it was named Ishmael.....

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