“By greatly upsizing found objects into bronze, steel, porcelain or wood — thereby establishing, by means of scale, a readily identifiable distinction between the work of art and the thing it’s mimicking — Koons is returning thought to sense experience, but a form of sense experience that is both highly materialistic and deeply conservative, relying on orthodox, costly mediums to affirm the elevation of his lowborn subject matter into art. His lack of adventurousness and invention in this regard is in sharp contrast to the silkscreening (then considered solely a commercial process) adopted by Warhol for his paintings, or the soft vinyl sculptures of everyday objects concocted by Claes Oldenburg (who can be seen, in many respects, as the anti-Koons, outclassing him on every count of wit, irony, and imagination). Koons’s bravura handling of granite and bronze, the materials of the ancient Egyptians and Greeks, reflects the reactionary attitude toward materials that cost Marcia Tucker, the founder of the New Museum, her job at the Whitney in 1977 after she exhibited Richard Tuttle’s sculptures made out of wire and rags.”
—Thomas Michelli, “Have a Nice Day: Jeff Koons and the End of Art,” Hyperallergic.com, June 28, 2014
In addition to apologies for forgetting who he/she is, I owe huge thanks to whoever recommended Marcia Tucker’s memoir, A Short Life of Trouble (2008) to me. I’m over halfway through and already regretting the diminishing number of pages left to enjoy.
The redoubtable curator’s early life was full of adventure and anguish. There are parties in downtown NYC, a cross-country motorcycle ride, overseas romance, upstate escapes, and day jobs assisting mad artists. Later, she funnels her passion into a curatorial career as the first female curator ever hired at the Whitney Museum of American Art.
Her activism as a feminist and the courage and aplomb with which she challenges sexism in the art world is inspiring and encouraging. It’s also a great reminder of the brevity of contemporary art history—that the institutions that seem dominant today have really been shaped by key individuals that are still active now, and these individuals aren’t the ubiquitous blue-chip male brands you typically think of.
Tucker writes in a cut-to-the-chase style fitting for her unstoppable determination and remarkable work ethic.
I highly recommend A Short Life of Trouble to artists and curators alike, especially those interested in how to live and work in fifth gear, regardless of gender. Young art and curatorial students may find the story of how Tucker realized that she was a curator, not an artist, especially useful.
It seems coincidental yet fitting that after filtering through the Frieze Fair for things I could use (materials, techniques, displays) and coming away with an unimpressive whole, that I should stumble upon this bit of wisdom:
When I first started going to [artist’s] studios, I was looking for work that met my own terms, even if I couldn’t quite define them. But after a while, I realized that I was approaching the whole enterprise from the wrong end. I needed to find out what the work’s terms were, and then see if I could stretch my understanding to meet them.
(from the prologue of Marcia Tucker’s A Short Life of Trouble, 2008)
Indeed, objects I make are often seen as the results of my efforts. But moreover, the ultimate results I seek to create are the internal and external experiences that unravel, visually and conceptually, over time.
[Thanks, CLF, for the recommendation.]