Magazine article Sculpture

BASEL: Jeff Koons

Magazine article Sculpture

BASEL: Jeff Koons

Article excerpt

Beyeler Foundation

Visitors strolling through JeffKoons's recent exhibition at the Beyeler Foundation looked happy and comfortable. It didn't matter our age or how serious, critically involved, or skeptical we were when we entered; once inside, we looked at Koons's works without prejudice, contagious smiles lighting up our faces, our eyes shining with childish joy. When we left, we felt good, convinced that ours is a beautiful world. As Koons intended, we felt "perfect."

Though extensive, this show was not a retrospective. Instead, it featured 50 works from three series- "The New" (1980-87), "Banality" (1988), and "Celebration" (1994- ongoing)-that represent crucial steps in Koons's development: a restricted but intelligent choice. Koons's works (both sculptures and paintings) belong to popular culture, but beyond the seductive images, we perceive a deep and philosophical mindset that belongs to high culture.

In "The New," Koons presents factory- new Hoover vacuum cleaners and carpet cleaners, encased in Plexiglas and placed over fluorescent tubes. The impression is of cleanliness and value, supporting themes of integrity, innocence, and purity. According to Koons, "'The New' is about the viewer's confrontation. The whole dialogue about mortality is what's taking place within the viewers and their own perception of mortality."

After the ready-made everyday objects of "The New," Koons's work morphed into the oversize, strange, funny, and provocative "Banality" sculptures. The series is based on concepts of innocence and guilt, using aesthetic means to address the forgiveness of sin and to dissolve the notion of guilt in general. Many of the works are characterized by associations between human and animal. They reproduce popular objects and are so sweet and cheerful that one wants to embrace them. We smile in front of Winter Bears, Buster Keaton, and Serpents, just as we do when looking at the sexy, but innocent Woman in Tub, Pink Panther, and Naked. …

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