Jeff Koons derives inspiration from things you might find at a yard sale: inflatable plastic toys, vacuum cleaners, porcelain trinkets and other items not typically considered fine art. He is the epitome of Neo-Pop, a 1980s movement that looked to earlier Pop artists, particularly Warhol, for inspiration.
Since his emergence in the 1980s, Jeff Koons has blended the concerns and methods of Pop, Conceptual, and appropriation art with craft-making and popular culture to create his own unique iconography, often controversial and always engaging. His work explores contemporary obsessions with sex and desire; race and gender; and celebrity, media, commerce, and fame.
A self-proclaimed “idea man,” Koons hires artisans and technicians to make the actual works. For him, the hand of the artist is not the important issue: “Art is really just communication of something and the more archetypal it is, the more communicative it is.”
Jeff Koons’s artwork rarely inspires moderate responses, and this is one signal of the importance of his achievement. Focusing on some of the most unexpected objects as models for his work, Koons’s work eschews typical standards of “good taste” in art and zeroes in precisely on the vulnerabilities of hierarchies and value systems.
Art critic Christopher Knight writes, “He [Koons] turns the traditional cliché of the work of art inside out: rather than embodying a spiritual or expressive essence of a highly individuated artist, art here is composed from a distinctly American set of conventional middle-class values.”
This weeks Work of the Week (WOW!) is precisely a work of conventional middle class values.
Jeff Koons is best known for working with popular culture subjects and his reproductions of banal objects—such asballoon animals produced in stainless steel with mirror-finish surfaces.
His steel Balloon Dog sculptures, probably his best-known works, transpose an ephemeral childhood memory into an enduring form. His work looks cheap, but is expensive, an ingenious reversal of economic logic that forms the basis for his stunning commercial success. Rather than offending the art snob, Koons has challenged top collectors to revise their notions of what fine art looks like.
His sculptures are not merely conceptual, but aesthetic, in ways that challenge us, especially those of us accustomed to fine art. Kitsch and high culture, religion and eroticism, weightlessness and mass are among the apparent opposites that mix and mingle in his work.
“Balloon Dog is a very optimistic piece, its a balloon that a clown would have maybe twist for you at a birthday party. But at the same time there’s the profoundness of an archaic sculpture. The piece has an interior life while the reflective exterior surface affirms the viewer through their reflection.” – Jeff Koons
Koons is essentially a late twentieth-century incarnation of Marcel Duchamp. Like the French Conceptual artist who thought America’s bridges and plumbing her finest artworks, Koons strips industrially-made objects of their practical purpose and re-presents them as art.
Additional works by Jeff Koons: