Opinion Analysis Debate
It’s great to see Pablo’s smart cartoons on the site. I’m reminded of another perhaps unlikely cartoonist — art and culture writer Anthony Haden Guest — one of whose darkly humorous creations graced the door of a professor of mine when I was studying art history some years ago:
One has to wonder who the enemy is and who the people in the tank are. The critics, auction houses, gallery system, and historians adore Koons and take his work very seriously. Just about everything he does gets written up in the mainstream press and there is a Jeff Koons Ovation TV special. He is now officially an American Master. Granted he is the favorite target of conservatives and reactionaries, along with Damien Hirst, but in terms of the art world, they are marginalized kooks. I count myself among them at times. I don’t think the conservative voices or those people who have become disenchanted with contemporary art deserve to be represented with a powerful symbol like a tank. A soiled tissue or discarded lemon rind would be more appropriate. History has left the nay-sayers behind. At least that is what the press and the auction houses and the museums want us to believe.
Does it have to be about art? If so, why not Deitch or Gagosian as the enemy?
In a broader context, the tank is a phallic locomotor symbol, like a motorcycle or speed boat: male aggression. The puppy is pre-sexual, innocent, unthreatening. Their juxtaposition accesses absurdity and incongruities of scale. There is also implied regression, playing war games in a sandbox with toys and stuffed animals.
Does anyone remember this scene from Ghostbusters,, with the marshmallow man taking the place of Godzilla? How might this combine with the Jeff Koons rabbit in last year’s T-day parade?
Maybe it’s about art world opposition to the war in Iraq.
See what you started, Pablo?
“Granted he is the favorite target of conservatives and reactionaries, along with Damien Hirst, but in terms of the art world, they are marginalized kooks.” (Sorry about the awful syntax)
Koons’ puppy has pointy ears. I assume that is what is poking its head over the hill in the cartoon. The caption makes reference to Koons’ puppy. However the puppy’s head in the cartoon has rounded, teddy bear like ears.
One can view the tank as a male phallic symbol and the teddy bear as a symbol of youth and/or innocence, but as I tried to point out, Koons is hardly an up and coming artist. Conservative critics hate him, but every other sector of the contemporary art world, those that have to do with big money and the shaping of public opinion, have fully embraced him.
If the comic is about the Iraq War or the juxtaposition of sexual aggresion and pre-sexuality, as Mr. Kaplan suggests, then I don’t really understood the reference to Koons, which clearly places the dynamic of the comic squarely within the confines of the art world.
Regardless of what living artists might think about Koons, his art’s chances of surviving into the future are far greater than those artists or ideologues who lambast him, simply because he is already a part of the archives of history. They should realize that the class war is over and that they have lost.
It might all disappear one day, and the survivors, if there are any, will be able to pick through the wreckage and decide what is important and what is not. But to rest ones hopes on this premise, can’t be a productive way of going about things.
When posting above on the marshmallow man, I had not yet heard about Paul McCarthy’s inflatable dog turds rampaging across Switzerland. Here is my take on the incident.
Eric: You might be interested in this.
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