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Art review: Jeff Koons at Gagosian Gallery

November 19, 2009 |  4:45 pm

400.0015 Waterfall Andy Warhol was fascinated by boredom for two perfectly good reasons: It allowed him to see things he otherwise would have missed, and it meant that, overall, things were going pretty well if life's daily dramas were not overwhelming, debilitating or too upsetting.

At Gagosian Gallery, 10 new paintings by Jeff Koons flesh out both aspects of Warhol's love affair with boredom. If Warhol is the father of Pop Art, Koons is a chip off the old block, an unparalleled imitator whose imitations are so cockeyed and corny that they come off as originals, weird as that is.

Despite their size (approximately 9 by 12 or 9 by 7 feet), flashy colors (metallic silver, verdant green, fleshy pink), sexy subjects (naked models posing languorously in luscious landscapes) and painterly flourishes (juicy smears of semi-translucent pigment), Koons' pictures are boring.

To look at them is to see too many easy nods to works by too many other artists, including heavyweights Roy Lichtenstein, Sigmar Polke and Cy Twombly, super-heavyweights Georges Seurat and Gustave Courbet, and lightweights Christopher Wool and James Nares, not to mention Koons' own over-designed porn pictures of himself and his ex-wife, Cicholina. His new paintings seem to suffocate under the preposterously long list of sources.

And then they get interesting.

 When you finally stop looking at what they depict and start looking at how they do it, you see something strange. Koons has not piled up various types of painting atop one another, putting thin, sinuous lines over thick, gooey brush strokes, or laying swiftly scribbled gestures atop digitally rendered fields of screenprint-style dots.

Not one single bit of oil paint overlaps another speck. Absolutely everything occupies the same plane. And it's all perfectly done.

To stick your nose in these paintings is to be blown away by the fastidiousness of their planning and the meticulousness of their execution.

The labor-intensity is inconceivable.

And that's when it hits you that Koons runs a studio with a huge staff of exceptionally skilled technicians. As an artist, he is dedicated to the production of handmade reproduction — super-realistic depictions of works that look as if they are mass-produced. His paintings are the best copies money can buy.

It's loony. It's perverse. Best of all, it ruffles art-world feathers because it ignores class-based differences between the work of artisans and artists, salespeople and poets.

The crass aspirations of the nouveau riche are Koons' great subject. His oeuvre is the visual equivalent of a 19th century novel of manners. If that's boring, it's exactly the type of boredom that fascinated Andy.

– David Pagel

Gagosian Gallery, 456 N. Camden Drive, Beverly Hills, (310) 271-9400, through Jan. 9. Closed Sundays and Mondays. www.gagosian.com

Image: Jeff Koons' "Waterfall Couple (Dots) Brown Swirl." Credit: From Gagosian Gallery.

Comments () | Archives (4)

To bad he didn't paint them. Factory art. At least he employs artists. I actually like some Koons things, but he’s a child of capitalism who is expanding to his empire to far, watering down his best stuff, making it less special. He is as at home making “art” as much as he would be content employing others to make furniture or build hot rods on an assembly line.

Dude, these aren't interesting. The process is as dull as the images. He's creating the images in Photoshop of something similar and then having his assistants paint the compositions--how in the world, at his prices, does that ruffle anything? Also, the whole thing is a helluva lot less labor-intensive than hand-painting these himself. Boring, boring, boring...

His stuff was perfect at Versailles, it matched its glittery decadence. Its fine as party favors and in a playful atmosphere, but is grossly overpriced for what it is. His MJ is stupid, but his baloon animals would be great at a Cirque du Soleil in Vegas. Not much anyplace else but some rich old fools party estate, Hef might go for it if it had some cleavage.

art collegia delenda est


You give Mr. Koons too much credit. The fact that you find something interesting in these paintings is more a testament to your intellect than to Jeff's. There is no way that the artist intended to have a viewer draw those conclusions. He is simply a provocateur like Johnny Lidden is to the music industry. He catches headlines now and his collectors will keep him in the lime light for some time after he is gone but his effects on the art world art short lived.


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