Artist Jeff Koons, from The Broad’s UnPrivate Collection talk.
JEFF KOONS ARCHIVAL
“Where I grew up in Pennsylvania, people really enjoy celebrating the holidays…so at Easter, people will put inflatable rabbits out in their yards…but when I would look at it, it reminds me as I mentioned before like I think of an orator, a playboy bunny or you think of resurrection….there’s many different ways you can view it, and I think that’s what kind of gives it an iconic type of power, in that it can have a lot of different meanings to different people. But it affirms everyone. Anybody looking at it, it first is affirming you. It can have a lot of different meanings.”
Jeff Koons’s version of an inflatable rabbit—a cheap children’s toy—has lost all traces of vulnerability. Its once soft, easily punctured surface has been cast in impenetrable stainless steel, the carrot looks more like a weapon than a snack, and the mirror-like surface deflects any allusions to its interior. The form and finish are austere, yet alluring. Joanne Heyler.
The ears have a lot of detail that is clearly what you would find in a sort of drugstore inflatable animal. The feet and legs have that, too. All the seams show. It's a very convincing facsimile in every way, except that it's completely blank.
ELI BROAD ARCHIVAL
“Well, from the first day we met Jeff Koons, and went to his studio on Houston and Broadway to today, we’re sort of awestruck by his creativity and how he moves forward and the number of people he has working at his studio.”
To make stainless steel do this, what you see in this sculpture, is very very difficult and technical. To get each and every one of those folds and crinkles and wrinkles so that it just very convincingly looks like a buoyant, air-filled object, when it is, in fact, extremely heavy and steel is one of the illusions that he achieves with this piece.
In 1979 Jeff Koons made Inflatable Flower and Bunny (Tall White, Pink Bunny), the seed for so much of his future work. This sculpture, also in The Broad’s collection, features two vinyl inflatable toys — a flower and a pink bunny — that sit on top and in front of four square mirrors. Seven years later, Koons ditched the flower, combined the mirror and the bunny, and created Rabbit. The switch from the word “bunny” to “rabbit” is intriguing. Bunny is cute and floppy; rabbit is quick and sharp. The carrot in the rabbit’s paw is wielded like a weapon, and the once soft, leaky, and cheap vinyl shell of the bunny has been replaced by armorlike, costly stainless steel, which reflects everything surrounding Rabbit and deflects any allusions to the sculpture’s interior.
Jeff Koons emerged in the 1980s as an innovative sculptor of exquisitely crafted objects, which quickly became icons of art history, the primary example of which is Rabbit, 1986. Cast in highly polished stainless steel from an inflatable Easter bunny novelty, the sculpture’s mirror-like surfaces have the eerie effect of including the viewer in their cool reflections.
The Broad’s Koons collection is unrivaled globally and holds representative work from each stage of the artist’s diverse and ever-changing career. In its celebration of consumer goods and its questioning of the notion of “good taste,” Koons’s art has been critically received as an ironic comment on the decadence of the 1980s and of capitalist culture. Koons himself, however, posits a less cynical view, citing his relationship to his young son, transcendence, and the eternal resonance of beauty as motivating factors for his art.
In his Banality series, Koons created sculptures of dimensions and details monstrous and absurd. These works, like Michael Jackson and Bubbles, 1988, are both compelling and disturbing in their size and seductive porcelain surfaces. The dead white of Jackson’s skin and his glamorous pose with Bubbles in matching clothing invite a chilling range of questions about celebrity and image making.
Celebration, an ongoing Koons series of sixteen paintings and twenty sculptures, rejoices in the rituals and images surrounding birthdays, holidays, and other party occasions. Tulips, 1995–2004, is among the grandest and most technically complex objects in the series, providing a perfect illusion of balloon flowers, constructed of seamless and mirror-polished stainless steel. The work is considered a successor to Koons’s inflatable pieces of the late 1970s.
In order to visualize and represent the desire that often accompanies the advertising of consumer products, for Triple Hulk Elvis II, 2007, Koons culled images from his giant collection of photographs and advertisements. The multiple sources were collaged into conceptual schematics and subsequently painted in a super-realistic, glossy fashion. While often concealed and veiled by toys and lush color, Koons takes Elvis Presley as his primary inspiration.