If not for this retrospective by the Whitney Museum, my pedestrian familiarity with Jeff Koons would remain pedestrian. Although I suppose that’s what retrospectives are for. Prior to seeing the Jeff Koons Retrospective, the strongest image I had of him was tied to a balloon animal. I think he is probably one of the artists who produce quite polarizing work, especially as viewed by the general public or art snoots, and his portfolio has undoubtedly raised the question of what art is and isn’t a hundred million times.
The retrospective takes you on a quite literal journey, a progression of Koons’ work, so far. A common strain in his work is the appropriation of common objects, reworking them to possibly mean something other than what we currently take them to mean. Because these objects are so mundane, the validity of Koons’ pieces as “art” is always questioned, but there is a clear thought and reason for why these pieces are the way they are.
If you plan on going to see the retrospective (which you should, anyway—it’s up until October 19!), be sure to avail of the free audio tour because it helps clarify the intention of Koons with his art, after which you can decide for yourself whether or not he succeeds with his execution.
I think the strongest aspects of Koons work are the exploration of concepts and ideas, and the devotion to the actual execution of the work, as well as a deliberate intention. The produced pieces are deceptively simple, but the methods he employs to achieve a specificity of vision can be quite extreme, and this dedication elicits a completely different “layer” of respect from me.
These (quite iconic) suspended basketballs, for example, sit so very still and float on the water. The execution of this series required a specific combination of sodium in the water, which took Koons quite a while to figure out and master.
I like these chrome/steel statues, which he made from cheap materials and polished to a brilliant shine. This is of a balloon animal, similar to his Inflatables, but he also made them in several poppy images as well as a bust of Louis XIV, which would normally be made of opulent materials.
I love this playful series. Here’s a panoramic view of most of the room, so you can see the scale of the work:
Jeff Koons' Celebration. #vscocam
This clay mound is an exact replica that his son made, first unveiled in this retrospective in full. It took an inordinate amount of time to make and is actually made of twenty-seven interlocking pieces of painted aluminum, making it one of his most complex sculptures yet.
I love this Balloon Dog. Doesn’t it look like its original incarnation despite being 10-ft. tall?
I quite like this painting from the Antiquity series.
The Jeff Koons retrospective is on display at the Whitney Museum in New York until October 19, 2014. Absolutely worth a visit, if you are in the area. This post doesn’t even touch half of the wealth of information on Koons that you can get from the retrospective.
Similarly, you can also visit Whitney.org for a brief overview of his pieces, as well as his process and artistic intentions.