Matter of Fact

Continuing with one of my favorite topics—the erotics of art, especially abstraction, or one might call it art as sex and sex as art. If art is fundamentally erotic then to make art out of sex is redundant, but for some reason it is done, and I find that interesting. The phenomenon might have something to do with the decline of interest in traditional media, because that entails a kind of desublimation—what was always implicit becomes explicit. But I think it’s more than that—sex is really in the substance of painting and sculpture, it’s not just represented or alluded to, it’s really there. How did it get there? An interesting question that will take time to answer, or at least to speculate about. In any case, art can be as explicit as it wants and remain art, so Jeff Koons, since he is a real artist, must have been determined not to be out done by amateur pornography. The Made in Heaven series is really goofball, but good nevertheless. What’s disturbing is its corny staginess,

Jeff Koons, Wolfman 1991

Jeff Koons, Wolfman 1991

but that’s also why it works. Above all it’s objective and it objectifies not only sex but all the nonsense that accumulates around sex in our culture. In our world. It manages to be explicit and completely fake at the same time, through the magic of art, which saves both illusion and naivety in one gesture of completely objective knowingness. No mystery, only truth, but truth is a dream that still manages to be explicitly real. I think it’s a step past Carolee Schneeman’s great piece Fuses, although hate to say so. It would be nice to live in Schneeman’s world, but it might turn out to be Koons’s world in the end anyway. But I also wonder what is served by this particular narcissistic display, even as I remember Ehrenzweig and his compelling analysis of exactly that. The general artworld revulsion mentioned by Jerry Saltz seems defensive, because the work is very bold. Meanwhile, Koons seems to have mastered narcissistic display as a technique, at least that’s what one might think after reading Ingrid Sischy’s interview in Vanity Fair, with its incredible photos of Jeff Koons pumping iron in the nude, and sitting with his wife on their bed with their six children lined up like the famous string of puppies. Men themselves hardly believe in patriarchy anymore, and no male artist would take as a career goal to become a hero/father, and then flaunt success, and this takes us full circle to where we started three posts ago and Barry Schwabsky’s comments on Koons as a man who says yes. As unlikely as he may seem in the role…it is astonishing.

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