Big Dogs (Jeff Koons), a Fat Rat (Bruce High Quality Foundation), and a Trash Bag Teddy Bear (Gimhongsok)
The Koons retrospective (Whitney Museum): as commentary floods in, one point approaching something of consensus: he wins the mirror-ball of summer-sculpture-NYC (i.e., the pop-media prize), with his bloated, shiny-coated, kitsch-ified Brancusis. (That’s post-Kara Walker’s Domino sugar mama, winner of all 2014.) On Koons’s concurrent colossal dino-toy-like topiary at Rockefeller Center’s plaza, however, I would say: could have left this chapter one and done, with the first, brilliant (yes) flowering Puppy (conceived 1992) in the same spot in 2000.
Jeff Koons, c. 1993 (cast/polished metal); from an exhibition page (2012) of the Metropolitan Museum of Art website (currently on view at the Whitney).
Installed in the Lever House courtyard (just off Park Ave., NW corner Park/53rd) is The New Colossus (2012) by the sometimes-Banksy-like team, BHQF, a cast bronze replica of the giant rubber-and-roped “union rats” commonly erected at worker strikes and protests in the U.S. Ostensibly, the piece anchored a larger recent show about “art and labor” inside the building’s gallery. However, it also stands alone as a commodity, very expensive to produce (if not up there w/ the creatures of Koons), subsumed into the acclaimed modernist edifice (designed by G. Bunshaft / Skidmore, Owings & Merrill) and its corporate collection. Basic Frankfurt School points of socio-economic and aesthetic reference are easily applied and cast (pun intended) sharply in this case.
However, the idea that antagonism between workers/owners has reified (i.e., been cast in proverbial stone), which may signal that a tipping point for modern Capitalism may be at hand, is (perhaps; interestingly) also suggested.
Equally to the point (in situ in midtown): rat images / image triggers (like the word, RAT) have a special meaning for NYers, who are united in trying not to acknowledge the alarming statistical ratios of rat population to our own, barely separated by cracked concrete and plasterboard (of which we are intermittently reminded by news flashes). So this giant rodent near the building’s chic restaurant and terrace sitting area is also charged in this connection.
The grandiosity of it (starting with the ton, give or take, of precious metal employed) brings up the postmodern-ish problem of the cast found object – the replica, the simulacrum, on and on (and back to Duchamp and Picasso). At this point, with work of this ilk, we are basically talking about how “good” (engaging) the concept of the cast holds up in particular instances, and how conceptually layered (or not) the resultant new object.
Precisely, in an intrinsically similar vein but different situational context: a giant bronze cast of a teddy bear made from stuffed trash bags by Seoul-based artist, Gimhongso (Bearlike Construction, presented by Art in the Parks, NYC). Placed in the modest triangular Tribeca Park just below Canal St. where W. Broadway picks up again, the trompe-l’oeil / double-take figure from a (short) distance suggests a garbage “snowman” built by some kids in the night from the ubiquitous from trash bags left on the curbs across the street, and commands second looks. It’s also a great down-market riff on Koons’s immaculate over-blown playthings.
Gimhongsok, “Bearlike Construction,” Tribeca Park; bronze
Flashback: “rats in the gallery” a decade ago by German artist, Katerina Fritsch