Build me an art crusher

    A modest proposal. Since these






    glossy, junky works by Jeff Koons will soon fill
    Mies van der Rohe's distinguished New National Gallery in Berlin



    Can we ratchet down the roof on them?




    A good use for an art museum. To crush bad art put inside of it.


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    I recently wasted an hour at the Jeff Koons exhibition in Chicago (closing September 21). It was far too much time to spend there. You can learn more about life today - and have a better time - by simply walking through the aisles of your local supermarket. Then I saw the same damn works by Jeff Koons again at BCAM in Los Angeles. Yes, they're commodities.

    Large, colorful and shiny, Koons' stuff looks like it might have something to say, but after even a moment, boredom sets in and you're ready to move on to the next piece of glitz in his charm bracelet of an oeuvre. Walking through a Koons exhibition is like clicking the remote on daytime TV cartoons and soap operas.

    A Koons piece might be cute, but not clever. Funny, but not witty. It might be about sex, but not sexy. He offers a shallow youth-obsessed culture and status symbols to play with. Spending time with his baubles makes me feel like a sucker.

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    I agree with Tom Freudenheim's estimation of Jeff Koons in the Wall Street Journal.
    Tom and I spoke of Koons while walking to the Bernini show now at the Getty Center in Los Angeles (Bernini and the Birth of Baroque Portrait Sculpture - through October 26.) Once there, it was tragic to think of Jeff Koons, so we didn't, and life improved.

    The Bernini exhibition is a miracle. Drawings and bronzes and marbles (hand-made! Artists actually used to do that!) You meet the characters in Bernini's 17th century neighborhood - the Vatican. You get to know them, their worries and their joys. Some of the heads seem to want to lean over and whisper an old joke in your ear. The sculptor showed off, in the best of all ways. With a prodigious talent and a profound curiosity about the human condition and the human drama and where our deepest emotions lead us


    (That vein in the marble is more beautiful than anything in Jeff Koon's polished plastic surgery world.)

    Bernini shows how emotions and soul are displayed on our faces, our hands, the clothes we wear, in our medals and postures, in the breath in our chests that comes out through the mouths he sculpts whose lips are always in stopped motion and whose eyes tend to yearn.


    In Bernini's portraits of Popes and Cardinals and Kings wealthy businessmen and his mistress, you are pushed back as a viewer by their ambitions, seen in the ways they hold power in their bodies.


    You can tell after while which of the leaders is a fraud. Which stand for good and which don't. One or two of the powerful men in marble simply would not look at me, no matter where I stood.

    These works are displayed without protective glass, in a gorgeous installation that evokes Bernini's era and milieu. It is a true wonder to see up close, enough Berninis to follow his development, and not so many that you're overloaded, as happens in Italy. The number of sculptures allows us to see the range of human emotions. Bernini, despite the hypocrisy of his age, retained faith in humanity.


    In this day when elitism is condemned, it's good to remember what good it can bring us. Koons and Bernini both needed patrons. That hasn't changed. The quality of the thought and the art has. Bernini's complexity raises questions and takes positions. You know that the thinks that Thomas Baker, the English businessman who could pay more than a king for a portrait by Bernini, is simply a buffoon. You see this in the way Bernini lays his mop of a coif' on top of his blank eyes.



    There's not much inside. It's all for show. Self-love is empty. Would that Jeff Koons would take such a stand!

    If you're in L.A. see Bernini. If you're in Berlin, huff and puff and hope the roof falls.


    Top two Bernini photographs courtesy of the Getty
    Third and fourth Bernini photographs: Monica Almeida/The New York Times, which has a wonderful slideshow and review by Holland Cotter.

    Bottom Bernini photo of Thomas Baker: Victoria and Albert Museum, London, England

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