Jeff Koons: American Master
By Melissa Montgomery
Jeff Koons is a modern American artist known for outlandish, colourful, conceptual work. He was born in 1955 in Pennsylvania. He discovered the wonderful wacky world of Salvador Dali as a teenager. He even went so far as to meet Dali in a hotel in New York City. After graduating from the Maryland Institute College of Art , Jeff worked as a Wall Street commodities broker- an unusual job for someone with artistic leanings- but it obviously gave Jeff a leg up in the world of commerce. Today he is one of the most successful living artists- his work fetches record prices at auctions, and even though critics are divided on whether or not his art is “good” or even “art” Jeff is able to make a very good living from his art; something many artists never are able to do.
Jeff began his work in the 1980’s. From the beginning, he has always hired artisans to make his work: Jeff has been quoted as saying, “Art is really communication of something, and the more archetypal it is, the communicative it is.”
Jeff’s subjects in his unique works of art are derived from mass media, pop culture and icons of the 20th and 21st century. Bunnies, Michael Jackson, plastic flowers and lawn ornaments are the basis for the colourful and often large sculptures that are Jeff’s subjects. Often controversial, one never has a mild opinion of Jeff’s art. Critics either love it or hate it and dismiss it as kitsch. While it is true the work has a certain kitschy feel to it (according to some) - it is also true that North American culture has invented these items and subjects: lawn ornaments and pop stars are part of society and Jeff is merely showing us who and what we are as a society.
Themes that run through Jeff’s work are race, gender, sexuality, media and culture. Jeff is always in control of what he is presenting and does not choose bunnies and such seemingly benign subjects randomly. The moment these sculptures go on display, Jeff opens himself to the extreme reactions and sometimes harsh criticism that comes with being outrageous. In France, where he recently had an exhibition, many people were looking at his art and snorting as if his work shouldn’t be there.
Many disagree- Jeff’s work has been exhibited all over the world: in New York, Los Angles, London, Venice and Berlin. He continues to create and sell what he makes. He continues to provoke and delight with colour, size, and subject. Recently, at the Los Angeles County Museum, he created a large train hanging in the air suspended from a crane. The train revs its engine and produced steam- it did everything a regular train does except move on the tracks. Unique, indeed!
Jeff is also an author – he has written many books about art and is also a videographer. In 2005 he was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Relevant links: http://www.jeffkoons.com/