Saturday, May 25, 2019

Wascally Wabbit

If you're new here, this is a weekly column consisting of letters written to my (eventual) grandchildren (who exist) and my great-grandchildren (who don't, yet) -- the Stickies -- to haunt them after they become grups and/or I'm dead.

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                                  Who the Hell is This Guy?

Irregularly Appearing Imaginary Guest Stars 
Dana -- A Gentlereader
Iggy -- A Sticky (GT*)
Marie-Louise -- My Muse (GT*)

"He was our greatest living painter, until he died." -Mark Twain

Dear (eventual) Grandstickies & Great-Grandstickies (& Gentlereaders),

Recently, a sculpture? created? by Jeff Koons, a three-foot-tall chrome rabbit that was deliberately designed to look like a balloon rabbit -- and cleverly named Rabbit -- sold at auction for $91,100,000. By the time you great-grandstickies come of age it'll probably be worth ten times that.


This is a record price for a living, artist?


[Alright, I'll bite, what's with the question marks and the, huhs?]

Hey, Dana, glad you asked. First, the huhs. Huh, in this context, is a word in need of a new punctuation mark of some sort to clarify its meaning.


Well, according to Merriam-Webster huh expresses surprise, disbelief, or confusion, or as an inquiry inviting an affirmative reply. But the first three definitions indicate that there's at least a soft question mark or exclamation point implied. Perhaps both. The fourth calls for a hard question mark.


However, there's a -- huh -- that means: that's interesting, or weird, or crazy, or notable, or... but in a neutral way. There's no surprise, disbelief, confusion, or inquiry involved. There needs to be some sort of punctuation mark that indicates this neutrality.

Frequently, this huh in need of a new punctuation mark denotes that whatever the huh is referring to, rationally speaking, makes no sense. This is how I use it above. It shares more of its DNA with hmmm that it does with its fellow huhs. 

[Uh-huh, moving on... what's with the question marks?]

I could've used quotation marks but due to my aversion to the use of air quotes I try to only use quotation marks for actual quotes. My use of question marks above is meant to show that, at least as far as Rabbit goes, Mr. Koons is not an artist and Rabbit is not a sculpture. He didn't create it in an artistic way, he designed it in an industrial one.

Of course, those are just my semi-humble opinions, based on what I discovered when I went a-googlin' to verify that the alleged auction was not a hoax, a goof, or a humbug. I was hoping that this was one of those fake news stories everyone is up in arms about at the moment. That it was designed to manipulate people into smiling, as opposed to ginning up outrage.

Nope, it's real.

Jeff Koons designed it. Other people built it in his factory studio. Rabbit is one of many such creations credited to Mr. Koons and cranked out this way. Of course, Mr. Koons employees don't mass produce stuff. They're artisans after all, not deplorable factory workers aching from repetitive stress injuries and hoping to live long enough to retire for a few years before they wake up dead.

Makes sense. After all, if there were lots of chrome balloon bunny rabbits in the world Christie's Auction House probably couldn't get more than a million bucks apiece.

Speaking of Christie's, I found the following description of the work of Mr. Koons on their website.

"Conflating ideas of horror and exuberance, innocence and obscenity into something that is both vacuously monumental and exultantly celebratory, the American multi-media artist holds a mirror up to the modern world — and, like a reflection in the surface of one of his iconic ‘inflatables’, his work reveals society and human nature in all its grotesque contradictions."

I continued my research and discovered the following quote from Alexander Rotter, chairman (chairman?) of post-war and contemporary art for Christie's. "Rabbit is the most important piece by Jeff Koons and I want to go even a step further and say the most important sculpture of the second half of the 20th century."

Huh, well that explains everything... I smack myself in the forehead hard enough to blacken my third eye. Okay, now I get it!

To be fair to Mr. Koons, I confess I had somehow never heard of him prior to the recent auction that made the national news so I went looking for more information. After all, I'm certain that there are far more people in the world who have never heard of me than have never heard of him. 

Perhaps he is a world-class perpetrator of humbugs that rival P.T. Barnum's best work.

In short order, I discovered that in 1990 Mr. Koons gifted the planet Earth with "...paintings, sculptures, and installations..." that "...celebrated, in explicit sexual terms, his union with wife Ilona Staller, Italian porn star...". 

The quote above is from an article at Warning: don't click on the link if you're easily scandalized as it features a painting that includes a naked Mr. Koons and a nearly naked Mrs. Koons... frolicking?

I also discovered, from the article, that "Among the awards he has received are Officer of the French Legion of Honor; the Artistic Achievement Award from Americans for the Arts; and the Skowhegan Medal for Sculpture."

Huh. Poppa loves you,
Have an OK day. 
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©2019 Mark Mehlmauer As long as you agree to supply my name and URL (Creative Commons license at the top and bottom of my website) you may republish this anywhere that you please. Light editing that doesn't alter the content is acceptable. You don't have to include any of the folderol before the greeting or after the closing except for the title. 

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