· Jeff Koons: An ironically thoughtful point of view ·

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.

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“Play-Doh” (1994-2014).

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.

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New Hoover Delux (1980)

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.

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“Acrobat” (2003-2009)
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Popeye: “I yam what I yam!”

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:

  • ironic
  • engaging
  • playful
  • provocative and supportive with the normalisation of sexual taboos
  • thoughtful
  • conceptual
  • inflatable
  • monumental
  • dadaist
  • ready-made
  • critic with consumerism
  • colourful and bright

All in all, such a wonderfully grateful experience and a brilliant discovery of both art gallery and artist.

“Peter Kennard: an unofficial war artist”

“An average of 22 US Army veterans commit suicide every day, 1 every 65 minutes.”

This is one of the stunning statements that Peter Kennard gather in his last installation in his exhibition at the Imperial War Museum in London. In this installation that takes up one whole room we can find a great amount of data related to the 20th century conflicts til now and its consequences. It’s organised by the number they represent and then these numbers can be found juxtaposed over different b/w photographies and photomontages made by himself about the same topic. Moreover, some pics on the top show peace symbols too. Although this one called “Boardroom” is probably the most astonishing room of the whole retrospective, there are three other rooms before:

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Boardroom installation.   

In the first one we can find a collection of various big size paintings of his early years when he was still a fine arts student. They reflect his inherent interest on political activism and some influences of both dadaism pieces and the anti-nazism work of John Heartfield.

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Painting of Peter Kennard (room 1)

Besides, in the next room what really captivated me was the wide range of photomontages against the war made in a very critical and ironic way. He was kind of laughing about death and the fact of humans killing other humans. He definitely took the skeleton and the skulls to iconically represent the death.

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Different photomontages of Peter Kennard (Room 3)

However, on the third room his work became more conceptual. The walls there were covered with different stripped newspapers opened on the financial pages and with hands printed on to symbolise his frustration and desire to discover to unwrap the truth behind the information provided by the big companies and the government’s reports about economy.

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“Newspaper” by Peter Kennard

Similarly his work “Faces” were supposed to face some faces immersed in the dark and without mouth. They are supposed to represent in a very smart and subtle way how citizens are vulnerable and voiceless in front of hostil situations and pointless conflicts.

All in all, Peter Kennard’s retrospective exhibition of his more than 50 years of career was a harsh tour through 20th century conflicts like the IIWW and its consequences as well as the French Spring in 1968 with the students riots against the government or the hard episodes of injustice and disputes going on in countries like Syria. Peter Kennard did a great job focusing on the part that innocent people played on this kind of sadly contemporary struggles and their active and important participation in some cases. Thus, at the end, nothing is just one person’s fault, and we are all human beings who suffer an originate what happens in this world. Therefore, as the “Boardroom “installation reflected, there’s no singular number: we have to think global as if we were one to be empathic with those ones who are unfortunately living the no so nice face of life.

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Some old pics of the French Spring and the students riots in 1968.

Don’t think about it when it is too late:

“An average of 22 US Army veterans commit suicide every day, 1 every 65 minutes.”