Jeff Koons’s disparate techniques, media and messages defy categorization and interpretation—a situation the artist-provocateur seems to cultivate. Is he Post-Pop? Conceptualist? Neo-Geo? This retrospective doesn’t answer any of these questions—and guest curator Francesco Bonami’s confusing catalog essay doesn’t help much—but the exhibition is a fun ride nevertheless.
Koons is not really an “artist” in the traditional sense of a person laboring alone in an atelier. His operation is more like a factory, with armies of fabricators executing his complicated, often outlandish ideas: life-size porcelain figurines like Michael Jackson and Bubbles (1988); metal works such as Rabbit (1986) that look like inflatable toys; or a classically inspired figurative marble sculpture of Koons himself. It’s hard to find a common thread between these glossy works and Koons’s 1980s “readymades” (basketballs suspended in aquariums, vacuum cleaners in Plexiglas cases) or his recent photorealist paintings.
The most dazzling aspect of the show is the MCA’s installation: Taking down almost all of the dividing walls in its ground-floor galleries—which yields 7,500 square feet of open space—maximizes the visceral impact of Koons’s candy-colored images and monumental objects. The eye-popping assemblage is substantially more than the sum of its parts.