Jeff Koons & Cy Twombly: Primal Gestures brings together a highly unusual pairing of two giants of post-war art. Highlighting two seemingly opposing practices, the exhibition exposes Twombly’s rich visual lexicon of mark-making and gestural abstraction, pairing it with the reductive nature of Koons’ machine-made fabrications while teasing out underlying elements that suggest a commonality that is perhaps not all it appears to be.
The title of the exhibition has its genesis in Koons’ monumental painting, Primal Swish. Executed between 2008-11 this rich tapestry showcases a multi-layered explosion of energetic swirls whose energy is jarred against the serenity and three-dimensional lure of a rose. There is, however, an unsettling precision in the way Koons has applied his expressionistic linear brushstrokes, luring the viewer into a Twombly-esque vigour of densely layered gestures. Lacking any emotive character and natural fluidity, these deceptive swirls and scripts have in fact been enlarged, edited and layered using Photoshop, before being fastidiously painted on canvas to achieve an exact replication. Koons writes, “They are fake gestures… – they make reference to gestures. A gesture can be an intellectual gesture, it doesn’t have to be physical.” Here we see Koons set his sights on a meticulous devotion to the mechanics of reality as he unpicks the chameleonic dynamic between the physical and the psychological.