Play-Doh (1994–2014). From the Bill Bell Collection, courtesy of the Whitney Museum of American Art. Copyright Jeff Koons 2014.
I have invited menswear blogger David Isle to write a guest post on the Jeff Koons show at the Whitney. If you have heard of just one menswear blogger, it probably isn’t him. But you can find his blog here and follow him on Twitter here. Enjoy!
I read recently that some vanishingly small percentage of Americans could name a living painter. Like any educated coast-dweller, I launched into the well-practiced scoff I reserve for the American public’s many feats of stupidity, such as the 18 percent of Americans who believe the sun revolves around the earth, the 43 percent of Americans who believe in creationism, or the 47 percent of American voters who chose Romney in 2012. Just as I was about to decry the lack of funding for art programs in schools, I realized that I couldn’t name a living painter either. Unless you count my ex-girlfriend, who for a brief time tried selling some paintings on e-Bay under a fake name and art degree. (She gave up after a run of single-digit hammer prices. I am still disappointed that the Internet failed to recognize her genius, and diligently cherish the few pieces of her work I have, which will surely be priceless someday). So that should give you some idea of how unqualified I am to judge the works of an actual living artist such as Jeff Koons, whom I have now heard of, having seen his retrospective at the Whitney museum earlier this month.
This week I attended a party sponsored by art blogazine Hyperallergic and MoMA PopRally in celebration of the new Alibis: Sigmar Polke 1963-2010 retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art. The purpose of the event was to enhance viewers’ understanding of the exhibit by bringing in five guests who would “illuminate aspects of the German artist’s complex body of work through the lens of their respective areas of expertise,” according to the PopRally description. The five experts were a cultural historian, a hallucinogen expert, a conservator, a magician, and a palm reader. Each of them were quite thoughtfully placed in rooms where the artworks correlated to their individual fields and lectured or performed in intervals so that as one wandered through the exhibit, one could see Polke’s work through the experts’ eyes. This was not my personal reality.
Let me preface this by saying that I am a fourteen year old who showed up at this happening with my mother to get a feel for the nightlife-tied art scene and to see the exhibit. As it was a party, I was expecting the open bar, but I wasn’t expecting the 500 other people that came along with it. While I often attend friends’ parties, this had a different vibe that was totally new for me, and the novelty factor definitely contributed to my overall experience. Moreover, so did the crowd. (more…)
Video is from the Brooklyn Museum’s YouTube Channel. Depicts Swoon talking about her work.
Like Ai WeiWei, Swoon is another magical artist whose new installation at the Brooklyn Museum, entitled Submerged Motherlands, transported me to another world. There were fabric pieces swirling upwards into an ethereal papery tree, with whimsical illustrations and intricate-paper cuts embellishing her sculptural works and adorning every corner of the museum’s gallery. There is no other way for me to explain the mystical properties of Swoon’s art, other than to suggest watching the short film linked to this post or visiting Submerged Motherlands yourself.
Video is from the Brooklyn Museum’s YouTube Channel. Depicts a team of art handlers and studio assistants putting 700 bicycles together to create his site-specific installation Stacked (2014).
The title of Ai WeiWei’s new exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum is According to What?, which suits the show and the artist himself perfectly because WeiWei and his work are known for their controversy, for constantly pushing the boundaries of what it means to be an artist and an activist in China, a state that, as WeiWei contends, continues to oppress and lie to its people and to its visionaries in every sphere of society. There are several important things to know about WeiWei that are critical to appreciating his art. The first thing is that he has risen to prominence because we are now in the digital age; his mission to improve the life of the Chinese and convey his message of hope through art has flourished because he uses social media to constantly connect to the outside world.
This article by art blogazine Hyperallergic compares Jeff Koons‘ contentious public sculpture, Split-Rocker, now at Rockefeller Center, to Kara Walker’s old Domino Factory sphinx, Sugar Baby, which I reviewed here. The parallels drawn in this essay by Jillian Steinhauer are rooted in politics; in traditional progressive fashion, she speaks a lot about how race influences art and has an interesting take on the personality versus the size of each work. I have yet to see Split-Rocker, so I cannot say for sure whether her portrayal is accurate or appropriate, but I hope this referral inspires you to go and see both aforementioned creations!
Surface to Structure is an “innovative” origami exhibition held at the Cooper Union. The exhibition comprises works by international artists who challenge the traditional Japanese art of folding origami by manipulating the paper to create unexpected patterns and shapes. The pieces were grouped by the curators into various categories, e.g. origami-inspired fashion and tessellation-inspired origami. An aspect of Surface to Structure that I enjoyed was that it invited me to figure out the precise techniques the artists used in developing their work. One piece was particularly interesting: Stacked Pleats, created in a collaboration between a photographer, Christine Dalenta, and Benjamin Parker, an origami craftsman. Parker made the origami component, and Dalenta took the negative of that and deconstructed it using special photography paper. The outcome was an image of something like an x-ray of a ribcage, and that was juxtaposed against the original origami piece by Parker in the exhibit.
Slightly disappointing, though, was the similarity in the use of paper in this show to that in 2009’s exceptional Slash: Paper Under the Knife survey at the Museum of Art and Design. The exhibits paralleled each other closely; both sets of contributors to each exhibit maneuvered the material for out-of-the-box experimentation. Excluding Stacked Pleats and some of the tessellation pieces, Surface to Structure was weak in terms of being truly groundbreaking; there was much left to be desired and, juxtaposed against what’s been done before, it felt stale.