I found fascinating how he could be so conceptual and thoughtful through such playful and thoughtful pieces. Everything seems to be little bit childish around him, like his “Play-Doh” (1994-2014) monumental sculpture of modelling clay. Already here, we can see he likes to borrow brand’s names and all it comes with them.
I have to acknowledge that I didn’t know about Jeff Koons. However, I recognised his work at first glance and as a matter of fact there´s no way you can forget his pieces even if you see them just once. In my case, it was last year when Jeff Koons was exhibiting at the Guggenheim in Bilbao. I couldn’t manage to go yet I remember I saw a short report about the exhibition on the TV and, as it could not be otherwise, his particular universe stuck in my mind. Luckily, this time I got the opportunity to see his work live and get to know about him and his peculiar approach to this world.
Jeff Koons was born in Pennsylvania (USA) in 1955 and was captivated by dada art since a very young age. His career starts in the 80´s taking the superfluity of consumerism as one of his key topics. He’s considered a post-modernist keen on the kitsch and pop-art with a tendency for monumentalism. This exhibition was a fair reflection of this work since all kind of disciplines, from sculpture to painting and photography, were displayed.
At the beginning we find some ready-mades like the hoovers from his collection ‘The New’ (1979). These vacuums are all immaculate, pristine brand new machines never ever used before which is obviously a rhetoric and ironic reference to his dada background.
In this same first room, there are on display some billboards like “The New Roomy Toyota Family Camry “ (1983) or the “Find a Quiet Table” (1986). These particular pieces have a great link with branding since he is taking real brands like Toyota and the liquor Frangelico. He works with a brand an takes the values these brands represent to convey his message and get it across the viewer. The audience has a previous idea of the values of these brands and this is something Koons uses in his benefit rather than get rid of it.
Same happens in the last room where he uses identities as part of his work. There we can find “Acrobat” (2003-2009), an aluminium sculpture of an inflatable pool toy lobster, he called it himself the ‘Dalí-esque’ lobster as it has a large erected moustache.
The serie of inflatable sculptures have the name of “Popeye”, the cartoon sailor from the 1930’s. Thus, once again, he takes the values behind these two identities and adds them to his work. Certainly, the mention of Dalí refers to the fact that the sculpture itself is quiet surrealist, Dali’s appreciation of lobsters, and the fact that the material they are made of is actually the last thing you would expect, since he is representing a quite volatile material but used a way heavier one instead. The reference of Popeye is linked to his wide-spread quote “I yam what I yam and that’s all what I yam”.
He is probably trying to fool the viewer by telling them that what they see is what it is but it is not the case at all. It is all a playful trick of Koons in his attempt to make the viewer doubt and get intrigued .
The way he makes the viewer take part in the interpretation of his art, has a lot to do with branding as well, as the viewer is not a mere spectator but raises some thoughts and creates some links and relationships with the pieces. Like in his monumental sculpture “Ballon Monkey (Blue)” (2006-2013) which is made of stainless steel that lets the viewer see himself reflected on the surface of the massive piece.
Some of the values that describe Koons’ work would be:
- provocative and supportive with the normalisation of sexual taboos
- critic with consumerism
- colourful and bright
All in all, such a wonderfully grateful experience and a brilliant discovery of both art gallery and artist.