When Spider-Man Met Jeff Koons

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is the sequel to 2018’s reimagined adolescent arachnid superhero, doubling down on its predecessor with a unique, magpie visual style. The result is, at least in part, an art history crash course (literally characters often collide with works of art).

Most of the film is represented by computer-generated animation, Passing by at dizzying speed, There are moments of slow and stunning beauty. The background dissolves with painterly effect, giving way to an emotional abstraction reminiscent of the works of Kandinsky, Mondrian and Clint’s Hilma. The New York cityscape softened into a striking strip of brush. Benday’s dots roar across the screen, a nod to the story’s comic book source, but also evoking Roy Lichtenstein’s appropriation of the same.

The film’s director, Justin K. Thompson, said the conflict between technology and applications was intentional. “We wanted to emulate dry brushes, watercolors and acrylics,” he said. “I used to see a lot of Paul Klee’s work. Lionel Feininger” experimental film John Whitneya pioneer of computer animation, was also a source of inspiration.

There are also numerous more direct references to contemporary art. An early set piece in Frank Lloyd Wright’s building at the Guggenheim Museum gleefully let the filmmakers go. A version of the eternal Spider-Man villain Vulture, which looks like it was plucked from Leonardo da Vinci’s parchment painting, tumbles through the museum’s rotunda, brandishing weapons inspired by da Vinci’s fantastical and terrifying inventions, and soon… wreaks havoc on what appears to be Jeff Koons in Reminiscence. Several of Koons’ inflatable toy sculptures, including “The Lobster” (2003) and “Dolphin” (2002), are used in the battle scenes and thrown as projectiles. Unsurprisingly, his most recognizable work, “Koons His Balloon Dog,” is billed the highest.

“When we talked about Balloon Dog, we said, ‘What can we do with this?’ What’s going to be special?” Thompson told me. “He recalled that it was actually Mr. Coons who said, ‘One thing about balloon dogs is that this has a lot to do with breathing,'” Koons said. It’s filled with human breath.But we’ve never really seen the inside of it.What if we could cut one open and see what’s inside?’So I We just looked at each other and were like, “But what’s inside?” And he said, ‘Anything goes.’ ”

What ended up being a sight gag after a vulture dropped the head of a 12-foot-tall Balloon Dog, from which a myriad of tiny Balloon Dog sculptures spilled out, and that Koons’ gigantic work isn’t really an elaborate piñata. Satisfied my deep-rooted suspicions. (This scene reminded me of an accidental episode of a collector visiting the Art Wynwood Fair in Miami earlier this year. smashed the 16 inch version The film was already well underway. )

“I’m very impressed,” Koons said in a phone call from the Greek island of Hydra. “Because I always thought of the Balloon Dog as some sort of ritualistic piece, something that could have a mythical quality. The Trojan Horse, the Venus of Willendorf, some kind of tribal community there. will exist.” (his own balloon venus Koons saw Balloon Dog’s presence in the film as “a true participation in the larger community that people can rally around.”

The scene includes some of Koons’ early bizarre and underexposed works, including the multicolored wood sculpture String of Puppies from the Banality series (1988) and the stainless steel bust Louis XIV from the Banality series (1986). A few lesser works are also featured. Some of his 1980s vacuum cleaner collective works are homages to artists who had an indirect but original influence on the director of the first “Spider-Verse” film. In 2014, when it was still in early conception and stalled on how to create a kind of postmodern version of the immortal hero, script co-writer Phil Lord and producer Christopher Miller brought the theater I visited Koons retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art. Lord said the exhibition embodied their ideas.

“Let’s take a look at The New, Equilibrium, Luxury & Degradation, Antiquity, Hulk Elvis, and many other works that probably look like this kind of multiverse,” Coons said. suggested. “It’s a place where things can exist at the same time, but in different ways.”

Whether or not a deep dive into Koons’ work resonates with casual viewers is another matter. As the plot oscillates between somewhat excruciating teenage angst and extrapolation to quantum physics (an expanded metaphor for infinite possibilities that itself induces adolescent angst), the jokes within art are the beauty of adulthood. It feels like a concession to academics. (“I think it’s Banksy.” It’s a one-liner repurposed from the first film, referring to something that bears little resemblance to Banksy. At the Upper West Side screening I attended, everyone laughed at the joke, but not at Koons’ work. )

In another world, the idea that Jeff Koons’ career boost took place at the Guggenheim Museum instead of the Whitney Museum is perhaps the dumbest of all jokes, and is well understood even by seasoned art industry insiders. maybe it wasn’t. “There have been discussions for years about having a retrospective at the Guggenheim, but it never happened,” Koons told me. “So it was great to see.”

Director Koons said, “I think this movie is really amazing, and culturally, I think it’s playing a very important role in letting young people of all generations know the possibility of recognition.” . He added: “I’ve never seen a richer color than this. The red is phenomenal!” Koons said he was born in ’55 and grew up at Disney. “Maybe he was at some point in the ’70s when animation went into decline,” he said. “Then there was this amazing breakthrough by Pixar. The film is based on that technology, but it brings back the texture, the texture of the very senses. It’s similar to how you do it.”

Asked if he was a little shaken to see his work’s expression obliterated by an animated superhero, Koons said he used Zen Buddhist diplomacy. “I care a lot about the world. I care about living. I care about existence,” he said. “Everything turns to dust. The world around us turns to dust, the universe turns to dust. The important thing is to be able to recognize how we enjoy the world we are in and what our future holds.” As an artist, it’s nice to feel that art can participate in culture in some way.”

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