Jeff Koons — Popeye Sculpture
Past: September 16 → November 20, 2010
In 1997 the Galerie Jerome de Noirmont organised Jeff Koons’ first solo show in France, with a selection of works offering the French public an overall view of his career, from the first Inflatables made in 1979 up to the 1992 Puppy, a photograph representing the huge, flower — covered sculpture that Koons created for that year’s Documenta in Kassel.
In 2008 the exhibition Jeff Koons Versailles set up a new original dialogue between contemporary and classical art at the heart of the royal apartments in the Château of Versailles, placing some of Koons’s most iconic sculptures, both recent and early, in juxtaposition with treasures of French 18th-century art. Seeking to instil a strong sense of interactive significance into this confrontation between these different forms of artistic expression, and aware that he was addressing a wide public, the palace’s visitors some with little or no experience of contemporary art, Koons was very attentive to the hanging of his works, always aiming to interact with the decoration and function of the rooms. Thus his winsome Rabbit was exhibited in the Salon of Abundance, his Bear and Policeman in the Salon of War, and the shiny Moon in the Gallery of Mirrors.
His third solo show in France will be on view at the gallery; Jeff Koons will present his latest sculptures from his Popeye series.
Although his work contains numerous art historical references to figures from Fragonard to Picasso, and more notably to Duchamp and Dali, the key to Koons’s art is the relation to the viewer. His great concern is to address all kinds of people, whatever their social or cultural origin — to create trust in the viewer: as Koons himself states, “I am very conscious of the viewer because that’s where the art takes place. What’s important isn’t this object that we’re looking at; that object communicates the information that you want the viewer to have a dialogue with. (..) What I care about is letting the viewer know that they’re what’s important.”
In order to implement this discourse, which brings the subjective dimension back in the artwork, Koons uses a visual language that all can understand, involving popular archetypes that are essential images stored in the collective unconscious (flowers, toys, wedding rings, hearts). The artist heightens the metaphorical power of these archetypes either by reproducing them in shiny, reflective material, as in the Celebration series, or by heightening their realism in order to enhance their credibility.
The image of Popeye, an iconic American cartoon figure created in 1929, was a natural choice for Koons as a symbol of self-acceptance, not only in terms of this character’s optimistic and self-accepting personality (“I am what I am”), but also because of his obvious link to Pop Art and, more allusively, to Surrealism, two movements based on an acceptance of the world around us.
The idea for this series begun in 2002 came from the sight of a tree growing through a chain-link fence. This image inspired Koons to dream up a series in which “living” objects — usually an inflatable pool toy featuring a cartoonish animal — are combined with simple “readymade” objects such as a chair, a stepladder or a steel trashcan. Surrealist-like combinations of heterogeneous elements, the sculptures in the Popeye series are composite works, unlikely.