Jeff Koons at the Whitney

 

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I hated the Jeff Koons show. It felt like he went out of his way to make things I would not want to look at. I thought I was so open-minded about what I would look at, what I could enjoy. I am sometimes bored, sometimes uninterested, in an art museum, but I have felt so get-me-out-0f-here as I did at the Koons show.

Let me stop here to say: I am remaining true to my “if you can’t say anything nice” motto.  I am not at all saying the show was bad, or the work was bad.  Men in suits who work in finance are also not right for me, and they are not bad.  Orange juice and beer and pugs are not for me, either.  This is only about my reaction, and no one should take that too seriously, including me.

There is this play-doh mountain, which sounds delightful, but the fringed edges of it, just the way you pull play-doh apart and it frays, and the color, and the way the shapes are so poop-like, it made me so sad.

And ads, ads, ads,why ads, the horror.

I wanted to at least like or be interested in something that said, “Moses,” which is a portrait of Michael Jordan.  Not even Biblical allusion could get me.  Moses.  Right.  Basketball players leading.  Yeah.

The taupe and beige Michael Jackson-and-Bubbles sculpture.  Oh, God.  The taupe and beige, the shininess!  Was I a Puritan?

Is there some place we could be?  Is there somewhere Koons and I could talk?  The vacuum cleaners.  The way he placed them up on lights, lovely.  There were some flowers looking at themselves in mirrors forever in octagonal bounces, and a telephone looking backward and forward at itself that I thought was pretty great.  An Incredible Hulk as pipe organ, okay.  A giant Popeye, why not?

I like shiny things, too, I kept thinking.  He loves his stainless steel, I love black patent leather shoes, so, so much.  Why can’t we get along? And: to figure out things about myself that I didn’t know, like where my aesthetic enjoyment ends, it ends right there at what I think “tacky,” what I think “unoriginal,” what doesn’t fit me at all, which for me is not Warhol or Damien Hirst, but is, I can definitively state, Jeff Koons.

I sometimes stop at a painting I don’t like, I don’t get, and I force myself to look at it a while, to get something out of it, to learn from it.

You learn the most from people who drive you crazy, people you hate, if you can get going that much (I can).  I hate the woman painting by William de Kooning at  my home museum, the Nelson.  I have always hated it.  Not like, I don’t get it, force myself to look at it, but just hate.  Resent.  What is it doing there?  The scrawling of it.  It reminds me of the Cy Twombly show I saw at the Pompidou Center a long time ago.  I didn’t hate that, I just didn’t like it much.

The Koons show pushed me too far.  I would like to think of myself as a very cultured and open-minded person, I enjoy lots of wacky art, but I learned how far was too far, and I still don’t know quite what to do with that knowledge.

I didn’t force myself to stay with the play-doh mountain or the Michael Jackson sculpture, or the basketballs in tanks.  Maybe it was because it was too close to my birthday, and my tolerance for extra discomfort is low?  Maybe you can’t force yourself to be ready to learn from things.  Maybe that day was a preview of what I could, or will, learn from Koons.  I used to have no interest in Warhol, but I got there.

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