In collaboration with the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Centre Pompidou in Paris is currently presenting the first exhaustive retrospective devoted to Jeff Koons in Europe until 27 April 2015.
Through a chronological itinerary, the retrospective features around 100 sculptures and paintings sourced from all over the world, including all the landmarks in the artist’s career for the past 35 years.
Inspired by Marcel Duchamp “readymade’ objects, Jeff Koons started his first series Inflatables, by displaying coloured inflatable toys on mirrors. He then turned his attention to household appliances like the vacuum cleaner for his New series (1981), set in display cases illuminated by fluorescent light. They represent the American society aspiring to pragmatism and personal success through technology.
Pursuing his topic of the American Dream with the desire for upward mobility, Jeff Koons used the notion of sports as a way for underpriviledged to climb the social ladder, and created the Equilibrium series (1985), where basketballs float in aquarium-like glass tanks. In parallel he also challenged the notion of light objects in creating identical bronze casts (snorkel, Aqualung, lifeboat).
With Statuary, Jeff Koons replicated to the perfection familiar figurative decorative objects in stainless steel in order to appeal to widest public possible. Rabbit(1986) is a perfect example. Using skilled artisans, he raised new heights in porcelain and sculpture on woods with his large scale works from the Banality series like Michael Jackson and Bubbles (1988).
Having married adult film star and Italian parliamentarian Ilona Staller, alias Cicciolina, Jeff Koons then decided to feature himself in explicit photographs set in dream-like landscapes or sculptures for Made in Heaven (1989-1991).
Based on the original photographs he was asked to produce for a calendar, Celebration features large scale paintings and monumental sculptures from hearts, beribboned eggs, party balloons and toys using cutting edge technology and craftspeople.
The hugely ambitious technical and financial demands of Celebration resulted in a delayed public launch. So Jeff Koons responded with Easyfun, a series of playful mirror sculptures linked to childhood, illustrating animal shapes and cartoon esthectics.
Popeye and Hulk Elvis epitomise the American mass culture that Jeff Koons so values. Inspired by inflatable toys caught in unlikely situations, the sculptural objects are perfect replicas of the original models cast in aluminium and then painted over to create an illusion. The end result is so good that audience members and children are automatically fooled and attracted to touch the sculptures raising the alarm. A green Hulk appears to be screaming with his piano keyboard.
For the Antiquity series Jeff Koons revisits the landmarks of the history of art. His canvasses include a juxtaposition of photographs of inflatable objects and reproduction of statues of Aphrodite. The background, which evokes an abstract painting, may also conjure up the sea foam from which the goddess first emerged. In the foreground, Koons’s marker drawing of a sailboat makes a highly stylised allusion to Gustave Courbet’s The Origin of the World. The famous Palaeolithic Venus of Willendorf is transformed into Ballon Venus and so on.
Gazing Ball is Jeff Koons’s most recent series, featuring replicas of infamous masterpieces of classical sculpture. Created out of white plaster, they are adorned by a bright blue glass globe, a nod to his father’s furniture and decorative shop ornaments.
Despite all the surrounding controversy and blatant narcissism, there is no denying that Jeff Koons ‘ artworks have gained perfection in their technique and end result.
View the full set of pics here
JEFF KOONS RETROSPECTIVE
Centre Pompidou – Paris
until 27 April 2015