The Financial Times‘s Robin Blake wants to talk about kitsch:
The trouble with this passive, non-judgmental consumerism, in many people’s eyes, is that it leads straight into the kitsch cul-de-sac. Koons’ kitsch has been much discussed, but to criticise him on this score has rather tended to play into his own hands: the glossy everydayness of his imagery is designed to welcome and celebrate the kitsch as a token of acceptance of the world and the self for what they superficially are. […] In Clement Greenberg’s famous formulation, “kitsch pretends to demand nothing of its customers but their money – not even their time”. But now, in this most recent work, Koons has begun to detain the viewer just a little longer than he used to. There are enough hints in this latest show of real emotion, and perhaps a few stains in the wall-to-wall carpet of happiness, to suggest that a new post-kitsch Koons may be emerging.
Charles Darwent wants to look at consumerism, a perennial interpretation of Koons’s work:
A solution that springs to mind is “consumption”, the unvarying theme of Koons’ art. Whether his subject has been blow-ups or blow jobs, he has always involved us in the act of consuming. His readymades have come from the trashy end of consumerism: cheap plastic toys, pound-store tchotchkes. That is still true, but there are more of them now – to every dolphin its saucepans, each walrus and caterpillar its chair or stepladder. The logs in a metallised kiddy pool, Dogpool, are actually logs. Where Koonses of 20 years ago were wonderfully, cleverly simple, these feel merely clever – as though, given time, we can figure out what the artist meant by juxtaposing moustaches with lobsters, or dolphins with pot racks. And they feel historicist. I’d say as a result that, while Koons remains a fine artist, his new works lack the dumb majesty of the old. He has always been fascinated by the art market, and maybe it is market forces that have pushed him to change. Or perhaps, at 54, he has decided to court art history by buying it wholesale.
And Martin Gayford says he’s Baroque on Bloomberg:
So what is baroque about that? Firstly, the feeling of sensuality run riot. One of the things that appeals to Koons about Popeye, Olive Oyl, Swee’Pea and the characters from the veteran cartoons is, he says in the catalogue, “fertility.”
You get the feeling that this series could go on forever. Just as in a Bavarian baroque church there’s always room for another swag of fluttering drapery and a few more cherubs, so Koons could stir together any quantity of extra plastic walruses, swimming costumes and locomotives.
Then there’s the euphoric mood: Koons’s oeuvre is an angst- free zone. So his work is ebullient, obsessively filled with sexuality and executed, for the most part, by teams of assistants. The closest art-historical match is Rubens.
Koons is remorselessly upbeat. That’s one of the things about him that annoys people. He tends to talk like a therapist. In the catalog interview he says that the purpose of the series of Popeye characters is to show “just how perfect they are.” He wants, he says, “to give them acceptance of themselves.”
Yet just as it can be easy to lose sight of Rubens’s meaning amid his chorus line of pneumatic nymphs, so may some viewers miss the message in Koons’s welter of cartoon characters, seals and swimwear.
Many people are allergic to baroque — and to Koons. I have a taste for both. Even so, after a while you get the idea: enough saints in ecstasy on plaster clouds, enough plastic lobster and fencing. Time for a rest.
Jeff Koons at the Serpentine Gallery (Financial Times)
Jeff Koons, Serptentine Gallery, London (Independent)
Koons Crafts Baroque Lobsters (Bloomberg)