SchoolArts Magazine

February 2017

SchoolArts is a national art education magazine committed to promoting excellence, advocacy, and professional support for educators in the visual arts since 1901.

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Elevating the Ever da SCHOOLARTSMAGAZINE.COM 29 L O O K I N G & L E A R N I N G JEFF KOONS CO N T E M P O R A R Y P O P A R T I S T T hroughout history, there has been a trend among artists to question the popular art movements of the day by creating new movements and approaches to art- making. Prominent examples of this include Dada, Surrealism, Pop Art, and Conceptualism. Conceptual artists' mistrust of the "art market" led them to abandon the creation of objects com- pletely, emphasizing the idea as the artwork. In the early 1980s, artists such as Jeff Koons reinvigorated the genre of art that borrowed from recognizable commercial and everyday objects— Pop Art. Koons has also been a leading figure in art that is characterized by "recontextualiza- tion," which Olivia Gude includes in her post- modern principles. In his artwork, Koons makes use of appro- priation (another postmodern principle), where familiar imagery or objects are recreated in mon- umental or fine art form or are combined with other consumer or mundane imagery or objects. What sets appropriation apart from Pop Art is that the original is not merely presented without comment, but rather is stripped of its original implications by the addition or subtraction of elements by the artist. Koons's earliest works of mundane objects were elegant minimalist arrangements of commercial vacuum cleaners in glass cases (The New, ca. 1980–1983). From there he pro - gressed to basketballs suspended in fluid, and c ommon kitsch objects and media images executed in exquisitely crafted porcelain (e.g. Michael Jackson and Bubbles, 1988). His most renowned work was created in the early 2000s: monumental versions of commercially produced objects such as inflatable pool toys and stuffed animals. He also created paintings that combine juxtapositions of various popular cultural or commercial imagery, such as Popeye Train (Crab). Koons's stainless-steel Lobster represents a sophistica- tion of conception and execution that is in stark contrast to the simplicity of such Pop Art standards as Andy War- hol's (1928–1987) Brillo Box. But similar to Warhol, Koons imparts a fresh perspective on the common object, prompt- ing the viewer to reevaluate the visual impact of the ordinary. His work also serves as a reminder of Western culture's ongoing fascination with consumerism. Like the artwork of many famous contemporary artists, the creations of Jeff Koons are the subject of much discus- sion and disagreement among critics and artists. Some critique the fact that he has a large number of uncredited assistants who execute his designs, while others argue that this is common practice in contemporary art, especially for artists whose work is in high demand. Some critics believe that his work is shallow and empty of meaning, while sup- porters see him as the latest in a line of Pop artists who have elevated everyday objects into fine art. Koons's career does not seem to have been affected negatively by any detractors; on the contrary, controversy may have helped him become more famous. Today, Koons has become one of the most well-known living American artists, and his famous Rabbit sculpture was featured as a balloon in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York—an unusual honor for any artist. Elephant, 2003. Mirror-polished stainless steel with transparent color coating. 36 ½ x 29 x 19" (92.7 x 73.7 x 48.3 cm). ©Jeff Koons.

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