by Cathy Crocco
Jeff Koons, one of the most widely celebrated contemporary American artists, is known for his reproduction of ordinary objects, many of which are coated with shiny finishes, such as his stainless steel ballon dog. His latest exhibit, “Gazing Ball,” was recently on display at the Gagosian Gallery in New York City, where he recreated famous works of art and placed a single, three-dimensional, blue, stainless steel ball in strategic places in the paintings.
Upon viewing, these works of art are clearly about more than just reproducing and recreating known works. The gazing ball that has been added to the artwork allows viewers to gaze into the painting and see themselves as a part of the artwork. It is both retrospective and introspective. The gazing ball is also reminiscent of and inspired by the blue glass bauble that was popularized by King Ludwick of Bavaria, and is now more commonly used as a garden ornament. Though simple in design and execution, these works of art are not derivative or simplistic once they are displayed. Instead, they are just as inspiring and impressive as all of Koons’ work.
The artist has described these works of art, which are derived from the “Mona Lisa, Self Portrait Wearing a Hat” by Rembrant and “Raft of the Medusa” by Gericult, as well as 32 other famous masterpieces, as representations of our vast universe as well as the right here and right now. The 35 works of art featured in the installation, which were on view at the Gagosian Gallery from November 9 to December 23, 2015, are not simple reproductions. In addition to the addition of the shelf that holds the gazing ball and the gazing ball itself, some of the paintings themselves have small changes. For example, the copy of Leonardo da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa” that was featured in the exhibit is nearly four times larger than the original.
Upon close inspection, it is easy to understand what exactly Jeff Koons is talking about when he describes his work. When looking into the gazing ball, not only does your refection – the here and the now – stare back at you, but when viewed with the wide range of artwork from various periods of human history, it is impossible not to reflect on just how small a part of the human experience each one of us is.
Jeff Koons is a remarkable artist with a unique experience that speaks volumes about contemporary life and our place in society. This most recent installation is a perfect expansion upon and the logical next step in Koons’ growth as an artist since his first solo show in 1980. It is incredibly impressive and humbling to realize that even though Jeff Koons has been an influential contemporary American artist for more than 35 years, he is still able to grow and improve in way that speaks to art aficionados and critics alike.
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