Text Cesare Cunaccia
It’s difficult to describe him. Ascetic and affable, frank and caustic, spoilt yet disciplined; he manages to interpret the impossible and dreamlike projections, a prophet of consumerism capable of unexpected flights of poetry. His evolutions in language, a synthesis of semantic alchemy and metastasis, half fortune-telling and half comparison, following paths that blend provocation and reinterpretation, weaving high culture, fleeting kitsch and glossy quotes from comics.
The excursus of repossession and redefinition of the past in the contemporary era, their outlines recomposed to form further narration, seem to provide wonderfully inspirational terrain for today’s artistic debate: they represent an overflowing milieu of mythological evocation and adventurous metamorphoses. Jeff Koons was one of the first to rework, in particular, the poetry of figures in art from centuries of history. An itinerary he had already embraced in 2015, with his thirty-five oil paintings of humungous size in the Gazing Ball series. Enormous canvases, into which Koons the illusionist inserted a huge sphere in blue Mikado glass, one of those iridescent balls, the gazing balls made universally popular by the preference of the last, eccentric, king of Bavaria, Ludwig II of Wittelsbach and now more prosaically used as dazzling ornaments for vegetable plots and gardens. Magical objects said to ward off evil that in the nineteenth century were produced using a special process in Pennsylvania, an area with high levels of German immigration and the American state where Jeff Koons was born. «Before using ancient art as a source of inspiration for his work, Jeff was initially a collector. His relationship with work is always private and autobiographical», points out Pepi Marchetti Franchi, director of the Gagosian in Rome.
From its origins in the form of the Mona Lisa by Leonardo—already deconsecrated on an icon level and delivered to the Avant-gardes by illustrious agitprops such as Marcel Duchamp and Andy Warhol, two perfect precursors of Koons—through to the opulent, sixteenth-century sensuality of Mars, Venus and Cupid by Titian, from El Greco to Rembrandt, the dramatic, theatrical The Raft of the Medusa by Géricault, and the diffused, vibrant Impressionist chromatic textures. A special mosaic, packed with fragrances and theoretical reflections, full to the brim with volatile evocation and interwoven with pictorial experimentation, marked by dissembled, centrifuged elements, whose essence is read and then recomposed in an apparently unoriginal manner that refutes any kind of d’après approach. This has led to development of a collaboration project between this American artist and Louis Vuitton, focused on the theme of the bag, which we have already written a first chapter about here.
A true Koon-style manifest, a redesigned, specular memory featured on a Louis Vuitton bag, complete with mirrored camp red astonished bunny charm , Koons’ typical trademark, here miniaturized together with a version of the brand’s logo, reworked in the artist’s own special way. Overlapping education and memories coming to the surface from his infancy and adolescence, almost as if he is leafing through the pages of a tumultuous, analytical Bildungsroman, in an array of sensations and attractions, of sensual frissons and interest and curiosity for history and classic archaeology, reworked like fabulous fiction. A portable, exquisitely personal, subjective even, Musée Secret , which sits fair and square, with strictly pop nonchalance, on the medium of the bag, surfing between an eighteenth-century soft carnality à la François Boucher’s rococo boudoir, Paul Gauguin’s symbolism and the incredible, evanescent nature of Claude Monet’s Water Lilies. An extended, boundless series that teams an Ovid-style classicist Arcadia of the Triumph of Pan by François Poussin, French philosopher painter par excellence from the Roman Baroque—the only item, this one, sold exclusively in the large, recently opened Parisian boutique in Place Vendôme—and the diaphanous, distilled light of Ancient Rome by the romantic Brit, Joseph Mallord William Turner.
Edouard Manet is the personality that Jeff Koons considers to have been most important in his personal art career. «Le Dejeuner sur l’herbe by Manet,” he says, “gave me the chance to lend sense and impregnation to what can be communicated by an artist another or even others. In this painting, the Impressionist maestro looked at the cornerstones of Renaissance such as the Pastoral Concert by Titian and Raimondi’s engraving depicting The Judgement of Paris, based on a drawing by Raffaello. I was a different human being after having seen Edouard Manet’s work».
From The Fashionable Lampoon Issue 11 – Magnifico
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