“Multiplex America” & the Notion of Audience

In this month’s issue of The Brooklyn Rail, poet and art critic John Yau has an entertaining and thought provoking retort to Jerry Saltz’s recent praise of Jeff Koons’ massive fin de siècle sculpture Puppy.  Yau basically challenges Saltz for over-enthusiastically associating Jeff Koons’ artistic vision with what Saltz calls “our America.”

This is Saltz’s appraisal of Koons (which comes from the pages of New York Magazine):

Koons’s work has always stood apart for its one-at-a-time perfection, epic theatricality, a corrupted, almost sick drive for purification, and an obsession with traditional artistic values. His work embodies our time and our America: It’s big, bright, shiny, colorful, crowd-pleasing, heat-seeking, impeccably produced, polished, popular, expensive, and extroverted—while also being abrasive, creepily sexualized, fussy, twisted, and, let’s face it, ditzy.

And this is Yau’s critique:

I wasn’t bothered by Saltz’s overheated imitation of Frank O’Hara’s prose, its bad alliteration and doubly obvious onomatopoeia. His goo-goo eyed, love-struck declaration that Koons was “the emblematic artist of the decade” was predictable, but not depressingly so. It was his blithe characterization of “our America” that I had trouble with. When he ticked off “big, bright, shiny, colorful, crowd-pleasing, heat seeking…” it seemed to me as if Saltz were talking about what personality traits he and Koons have in common, their ideal attributes, and that America was actually nowhere in sight.

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