Anyone who knows me is well aware I never lack for conversation nor hesitate to share my opinions. After all I am a born and bred New Yorker and we never hesitate to articulate our thoughts. After all, if you see something, say something! But the work of the controversial artist Jeff Koons renders me speechless ….. and this is no small feat. Ok, my friends – don’t smirk! So I will take pen to paper and try to coherently articulate my thoughts on the art of Jeff Koons … hope you will indulge me and read on.
Each and every morning when I awaken to television’s “The Today Show” the artwork of Jeff Koons is literally and figuratively in full bloom at midtown’s Rockefeller Center, directly on the 52nd Street /Fifth Avenue’s Rockefeller Plaza – filling every inch of my tv frame. You can’t miss this massive floral animal shaped structure titled “Split Rocker” tastefully (not an adjective normally used to describe the work of Jeff Koons!) composed of 50,000 flowers – quite a spectacular summer sight. This is an artist who not only followed his dreams…but dreamed BIG.
So I decided to take in the retrospective of Jeff Koon’s artwork currently occupying practically every floor of the Whitney Museum at 75th Street and Madison Avenue. You may already be aware that the Whitney is moving downtown and this challenging exhibit will be the last show at this particular locale. On a personal note, I will so miss this uptown showcase, I love this accessible gem of a modernist museum, guess I am an uptown girl at heart, such a wealth of museums and art up in my ‘hood. Hate to part with any of it, I admit, so I selfishly wish the Whitney would stay put. That being said…..
Jeff Koons lives only a few blocks from the uptown Whitney, and his devotion and admiration for NYC is so apparent, it is only right that he be deservedly honored with the last show at this locale. He is as bold and brassy as NYC itself!
As to the exhibit itself….
It will be there until October 19th 2014 – do not miss this arguably intense but intriguing and just plain fun exhibit. Approximately 150 objects are on display in chronological order – from 1970 to the present – starting on the 2nd floor and up to the 4th floor. Such diversity and breadth to his work, his is a singular vision in every medium – in a manner NONE of us could conceive! We are all familiar with his later brave, blatant works i.e. the Balloon Dog, the Silver Rabbit, Michael Jackson and Bubbles – these are very much a part of our modern consciousness. But this exhibit (which I suspect will NEVER happen again, excepting for its move to the Pompidou Centre in Paris after it leaves the Whitney) takes us completely into the mind of the artist. For this exhibit, his work is displayed in context and thoroughly organized not only chronologically but divided and titled according to his varied viewpoints at certain points in his still young life. Such a marvel of creativity via the artist’s personal philosophy – like who thinks like this?! He is at the outermost edge of the boundary between mass commercialism and art….but leaves his viewers to decide WHERE, WHEN – and ultimately IF he has crossed this invisible line. And ultimately, does it really matter?
His joy in his work is infectious, be prepared for some unexpected shocks, but also some good giggles.
The organization of his work for this retrospective is grouped not only by floor but by titles such as “Inflatables” – “Pre-New/ the New” – “Banality.” His personal life and opinions are distinctly referenced in his sculptures and an amazing variety of mediums, but especially apparent is his “Made in Heaven” series reflecting his romance and subsequent first marriage. (Just a note: this particular division is sexually explicit, not suggested for children.) Personally, I took great pleasure in his “Pool Toys” especially his all knowing, all seeing aluminum lobster … so deceptively simple but ultimately complex in thought, materials and placement. Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water!
The last floor, which contains his physically largest works, will blow your mind. I felt like a kid in a candy store when I stepped off the elevator. It was like Macy’s “Santa Land” meets Disneyland in Paris…oh, the possibilities! His “Play Doh” sculpture alone in this division is beyond comprehension – a marvel of form, shape, construction and color.
However be certain not to miss his solo piece i.e. “Popeye” on the Whitney’s lower level and his glistening “Gazing Ball” series on the 1st floor.
This is a rare opportunity to enjoy a living artist’s work in context – such a chance may never present itself again. A great show for a great city. It bears repetition….WOW. A worthy farewell to the uptown Whitney.
Bravo Jeff, you are an American original and true to your vision and talent.WHERE: The Whitney Museum of American Art 945 Madison Avenue New York, New York
By: Joanne Theodorou