When Spider-Man met Jeff Koons

The First Art Newspaper on the Net    Established in 1996 Tuesday, April 23, 2024

When Spider-Man met Jeff Koons
Our critic spots references to Hilma af Klint and Lichtenstein in “Across the Spider-Verse.” Koons, who inspired the film’s creative team, gets top billing with an animated survey (before his work is destroyed).

by Max Lakin

NEW YORK, NY.- “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse,” the sequel to the 2018 reimagining of the arachnid-adolescent superhero, doubles down on the first installment with an inventive and magpie visual style. The result is, at least in part, a crash course in art history (literally so, as characters frequently crash into works of art).

Although the film is largely rendered in computer-generated animation that speeds by at a dizzying clip, there are moments of slowed, even stunning beauty: backgrounds dissolving with painterly effect, shifting into emotive abstraction reminiscent of, at turns, the work of Wassily Kandinsky, Piet Mondrian and Hilma af Klint. New York’s cityscape is softened into brushy, impressionistic swaths. Ben-Day dots stutter across the screen, a nod to the story’s comic book source material, but also calling up Roy Lichtenstein’s appropriations of the same.

Justin Thompson, a director of the film, said the collision of techniques and applications was deliberate. “We wanted to emulate dry brush, watercolor, acrylic,” he said. “I looked a lot at the work of Paul Klee, the work of Lyonel Feininger.” The experimental films of John Whitney, a pioneer of computer animation, were another inspiration.

There are also a number of more direct allusions to contemporary art. An early set piece in the Guggenheim Museum’s Frank Lloyd Wright building allowed the filmmakers gleeful abandon. A version of the perennial Spider-Man villain Vulture that appears as if lifted from a Leonardo da Vinci parchment drawing tumbles through the museum’s rotunda, wielding weapons inspired by da Vinci’s fanciful and terrifying inventions and causing havoc in what quickly appears to be a Jeff Koons retrospective. The fight scene deploys several of Koons’ sculptures of inflatable toys, such as “Lobster” (2003) and “Dolphin” (2002), hurled as projectiles. Naturally, a Koons Balloon Dog, his most readily recognizable work, receives top billing.

“When we talked about the Balloon Dog, we said, ‘What could we do with it? What would be special?,’” Thompson told me. Koons, he recalled, “was actually the one who said, ‘You know, one thing about the Balloon Dog is it’s this thing that has a lot to do with breath. It’s filled with human breath. But we’ve never actually seen the inside of one. What if we cut one open and we could see what was inside?’ And we just kind of looked at each other, like, ‘But what’s inside?’ And he said, ‘Whatever you want.’”

What’s inside ended up being a sight gag that follows after Vulture lops off the head of a 12-foot-tall Balloon Dog, from which spill countless smaller Balloon Dog sculptures, satisfying the nagging suspicion that Koons’ outsize works are, in fact, elaborate pinatas. (The scene brought to mind an episode earlier this year, where a collector visiting the Art Wynwood fair in Miami accidentally shattered a 16-inch edition. The film was already well through production.)

“It was moving to me,” Koons said on a phone call from Hydra, Greece, “because I always thought of the Balloon Dog as kind of a ritualistic work, something that could have a mythic quality to it, a little bit like a Trojan horse or Venus of Willendorf, where there would be some form of tribal community.” (His own balloon Venus did not seem to make the final cut.) Koons considered the Balloon Dog’s presence in the film as “truly participating in a larger community where people can rally around it.”

The scene, which also features several of Koons’ earlier, stranger and less-exposed works, such as the polychromed wood sculpture “String of Puppies” (1988), from the “Banality” series, the stainless steel bust “Louis XIV” (1986), and several of his 1980s vacuum cleaner assemblages, is an homage to an artist who served as the original, if indirect, influence for the first “Spider-Verse” film’s direction. In 2014, while still in an early conceptual phase and at an impasse as to how to create a kind of postmodern version of the deathless hero, Phil Lord, a co-writer of the screenplay, and Christopher Miller, a producer, visited the Koons retrospective at the Whitney Museum. Lord has said the exhibition crystallized their thinking.

“You could look at ‘The New,’ ‘Equilibrium,’ ‘Luxury & Degradation,’ ‘Antiquity,’ ‘Hulk Elvis,’ all different bodies of work that possibly seem like this kind of multiverse,” Koons offered. “Where you could have things existing at the same time but in different ways.”

Whether the deep dive into Koons’ oeuvre resonates with casual viewers is another story. As the plot swings between slightly overbearing teen angst and extrapolations into quantum physics — itself an extended metaphor for the angst-inducing, open-ended possibilities of adolescence — the art in-jokes feel like a concession to adult aesthetes. (“I think it’s a Banksy” is a one-liner recycled from the first film, referring to something that looks nothing like a Banksy. Everyone laughed at the joke at the Upper West Side screening I attended, but not at the Koons stuff.)

The idea that, in an alternative universe, Koons’ career booster took place at the Guggenheim instead of the Whitney is perhaps the most in-joke of them all, something even seasoned art-world insiders might not have fully appreciated. “There was a discussion for many years that I would have my retrospective at the Guggenheim — it never happened,” Koons told me. “So, it was wonderful to see.”

For his part, Koons gushed about the result: “I think the film is really astonishing, and I think, culturally, it’s playing a very important role for a whole generation of young people to inform them about the possibilities of perception.” He added: “I never had seen richer colors — the reds are phenomenal!” Koons was born in 1955 and grew up on Disney. “There was a certain point in the ’70s maybe where we saw animation fall off,” he said, “and then with Pixar, we saw this tremendous leap forward. The film uses that technology as a base but brings back a texture, really the texture of the senses. I mean, it’s like the way we perceive a Rembrandt or a Titian.”

Asked if he was at all disturbed by seeing representations of his work obliterated by animated superheroes, Koons responded with Zen Buddhist diplomacy. “I care very much about the world. I care about living. I care about existence,” he said. “Everything turns to dust. The world around us turns to dust, universes turn to dust. What’s important is how we can enjoy the world that we’re in, and be able to have the perception of what our future can be. As an artist, it’s nice to feel in some way that the fine arts are able to participate within culture.”

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

Today's News

July 15, 2023

Apollo Art Auctions to host sale of expertly curated ancient art, antiquities, coins and jewelry

Their Majesties The King and Queen visit the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden

Castellani Art Museum of Niagara University conserves renowned 19th century campus painting

MoMA PS1 presents first US museum solo show of Finnish artist Iiu Susiraja

Hebru Brantley's past and future collide in Heritage's Urban Art event

MTA Arts & Design unveils new mosaic by Diana Cooper on Roosevelt Island

When Spider-Man met Jeff Koons

'Paula Wilson: Toward the Sky's Back Door', new and recent work by acclaimed New Mexico–based artist

A 1907 Ultra High Relief Double Eagle takes flight at Heritage in August

Banana Republic wants to outfit your home, too

Distant Conversations: a new exhibition series at the Currier Museum of Art

Video games at MoMA: Do they belong there?

"Don't Cry! Feminist Perspectives in Latvian Art: 1965–2023", LNMA main building; Riga, Latvia

Hammer Museum presents 'Becoming Van Leo' featuring Armenian Egyptian photographer Van Leo

'Palace Life Unfolds: Conserving a Chinese Lacquer Screen' opens at the Smithsonian National Museum of Asian Art

Roberts Projects opens 'Suchitra Mattai: In the absence of power. In the presence of love.'

Portland Art Museum hires Assistant Curator of Native American Art

Morphy Auctions collaboration with Brian Lebel's Old West Events off to a roaring start at Cody Old West Show & Auction

Wanda Czełkowska first international retrospective opens on 15 July at Muzeum Susch, Switzerland

Maggie Siff and Erica Schmidt on a Williams play 'Shot Through With Desire'

Mary Ann Hoberman, who tantalized young readers with rhymes, dies at 92

Minnie Bruce Pratt, celebrated poet of lesbian life, dies at 76

A Finnish official plays the cello to support Ukraine, irking Russia

The Differences Between European and American Sports Betting Markets

The Artistic Formula: Innovative Intersection of Design and Mathematics

Unwrapping the Magic: A Behind-The-Scenes Look at How Glass Christmas Ornaments are Made

Delving into the Rich Tapestry of Moroccan-Jewish Cuisine and Culinary Traditions

The Top Plumbing Emergencies You Need to Know About

Conquer Anxiety: Tips from Spokane's Leading Counseling Experts

Blooming Innovations: How Technology Is Revolutionizing Online Flower Delivery

Museums, Exhibits, Artists, Milestones, Digital Art, Architecture, Photography,
Photographers, Special Photos, Special Reports, Featured Stories, Auctions, Art Fairs,
Anecdotes, Art Quiz, Education, Mythology, 3D Images, Last Week, .


Ignacio Villarreal
(1941 - 2019)
Editor & Publisher: Jose Villarreal
Art Director: Juan José Sepúlveda Ramírez

sa gaming free credit
Truck Accident Attorneys
Accident Attorneys

Royalville Communications, Inc

ignaciovillarreal.org juncodelavega.com facundocabral-elfinal.org
Founder's Site. Hommage
to a Mexican poet.

The First Art Newspaper on the Net. The Best Versions Of Ave Maria Song Junco de la Vega Site Ignacio Villarreal Site Parroquia Natividad del Señor
Tell a Friend
Dear User, please complete the form below in order to recommend the Artdaily newsletter to someone you know.
Please complete all fields marked *.
Sending Mail
Sending Successful