This past week, Jeff Koons opened a show of recent work at Gagosian Gallery in Chelsea, continuing the artist’s exploration of new forms in printed works, sculpture and assemblage. Facing off against David Zwirner’s show of new Koons pieces several blocks away, the show was seemed to make its show-stopping intentions explicit, showcasing a number of Koons’ stainless steel balloon animals, and a series of hyper-kinetic prints alongside recent inflatable sculptures and takes on classical art works.
Blending classically-framed pop appropriation with Koons’ unique aesthetic, the works on view seem to blur personal style with exterior influence, with Koons acting as the operator. In one room, his Metallic Venus turns the original, iconic sculpture into a classic Koons, all gleaming metal and reflective surfaces, with a pot of flowers as a seemingly sarcastic exclamation point. In another room, he offers an even more personal abstraction, turning the classical proportions of the original into one of his well-recognized, bloated balloon figures. It’s a familiar trope, taken almost directly from the pages of Roy Lichtenstein’s mid-career work: the artist translating his inspirations and external influences into his own personal style. Koons’s approach becomes a matrix of sorts, filtering classic inputs through his own materials and proportions.
With that in mind, the show does offer a look at a somewhat fiercer Koons than in the past. Utilizing such brazen cultural images as the Incredible Hulk or the Superman logo, or iconic works like the Calliphygian Venus, Koons positions them not as objects to be evaluated, but as materials directly utilized to fit his own means and agenda. In one oil work, the Superman logo becomes a send-up of Renaissance geometries, defining the work’s form and composition while offering little commentary on the image itself. The object is no longer foregrounded so much as it is pillaged.
Perhaps this is what makes Koons’ work seem so aggressive. It’s almost as if Koons has placed himself beyond or above these cultural images, placing them in service of his own personal vision of the world. Through his use of absolute images: classical masterworks, pop culture supermen, Koons seems to place himself beyond these absolutes, or rather, parodies their rhetoric of dominance. Stacking art history over itself on itself, Koons becomes the supreme operator, with time and history serving his ends.