JEFF KOONS   18 I 07 I 01 - 16 I 09 I 2001      

    Photo: Rudolf Sagmeister        

  With 21 large format works from the years 1995-2001, the Kunsthaus Bregenz presents the most extensive Jeff Koons exhibition since the retrospective of 1992/93. This exhibition brings together three groups of work in which the central ideas of Jeff Koons´ work become focused. The show is not a retrospective, but rather it offers an "artist´s view” of the idea of the connections between surface and depth, between painting and object, between tradition and modernity. Therefore, in close cooperation with the artist, we have chosen works from the Celebration series as well as new paintings and mirrors from the Easyfun series and new paintings from the Easyfun – Etheral series. In the contrast between the "child´s view” in the Celebration- and Easyfun mirror-series and the "adult´s view” in the new paintings, this selection presents the  brilliance of Jeff Koons´ works in their breaking of European tradition, from Renaissance and Baroque all the way to Surrealism. This artistic approach is expanded and continued with the American tradition of Hyperrealism, Pop, and Minimalism, tied into the positive rationalism of affirmative communication through the ideas of the aesthetic and the object.
Each work group is shown as a unified cyle, each on a separate exhibition floor. The visitor thus wanders in a baroque spiral through the complexity and uniqueness of the individual groups of work and of the whole presentation. The selection of works is deliberately limited to key works. It makes possible, for the first time in Europe – and especially through the integration of new works – a new view of Jeff Koons´ exceptional position as an artist and as a stimulator of a new way of seeing the world.
               Photos: Rudolf Sagmeister        

  The earliest works in the exhibition belong to the work group Celebration, on which Koons has been working since 1992, photographing, moulding, painting, and casting. When complete it should comprise around 20 sculptures and 15 large format paintings. The first floor of the Kunsthaus is dedicated to six paintings from this series. Their motifs with the colored ribbons, the sumptuous surfaces and light reflections, the tempting luxury articles and toys, bring to mind childhood and adults dreams and fantasies.
"With Play-Doh and the other Celebration pictures, I began with photos I had taken of small models. I projected these almost stillife-like pictures onto the canvas and marked the basic proportions and whatever else I could take over from the photo. The pictures then undergo the process of a superrealistic stylization with the help of a sort of paint-by-numbers-method. Of course we do not paint numbers onto the canvas, but rather specific forms. There are no color transitions, rather only one color field at the edge of the next color field. It must, however, still be possible to create details and have something go from light to dark, so that it does not look like an Op-Art style, but rather has a superrealistic effect. That is my goal, in any case.(…) The pictures have something of a coloring book in them, a sort of simplistic quality. The are colorful and very Pop. They have an innocent aura.”
Michael Jackson and Bubbles, 1988      
out of the Celebration series:
Bracelet, 1995-98, oil on canvas
265x355 cm
out of the Celebration series:
Pink Bow, 1995-97, oil on canvas
270x346 cm
out of the Celebration series:
Balloon Dog, 1996, oil on canvas
259x363 cm
out of the Celebration series:
Cheeky, 2000, oil on canvas
274,32x201,3 cm

  Easyfun Mirrors and Paintings 1999-2001
The presentation on the second floor comprises seven mirrors and three paintings. The mirrors are based on simplified outlines of animals, such as a kangaroo, a monkey, a donkey, etc., modelled on children´s toys. Like the large Celebration-sculptures, they are archetypes which, in Jeff Koons´ view, help us to exist in the world. A special technique gives the mirrors their brilliant color which glows from the depth and, as in the pictures, displays the surface appeal of aesthetic objects. Koons is enthusiastic about the reflective capacity of his materials and about the play of light, called forth through the combination of crystal glass, mirror glass, colored plastic, and high grade steel. Together with the other works which reflect themselves, they transport the viewer to a Baroque-like world.
The pictures Cut Out and Saint Benedict were made parallel to this. With Cut Out, Koons "had the picture of a sawed out figure in mind, the kind one sometimes sees at fairs: an astronaut or a cowboy painted on a board, with a hole cut out where the face would be otherwise. One puts one’s head through the hole and becomes the cowboy. I had at some time found a picture of such a figure. It was of a plow horse, and I had saved the picture because I love two-dimensional sculptures and because I knew that I wanted to use this idea.” Saint Benedict refers to the picture of Saint Benedict in the ceiling frescoes by Martin Knoller in Balthasar Neumann´s church at Nerresheim. The green, swirling spiral of this picture, together with the picture Cheeky, leads up to the series - the last made in this year – Easyfun - Etheral, on the third floor. In these works, Jeff Koons cites the weightless, extravagant curves of the height of German Baroque and Rococo.
               Photos: Rudolf Sagmeister        

  Easyfun - Etheral 2001
These pictorial creations which resulted from "computer fantasies” bring to mind the flawless precision of Roy Lichtenstein or James Rosenquist as well as the Surreal fantasies of René Magritte or Salvador Dali. Koons has erased the personal hand from these pictures, so that this personal hand exists but on a conceptual level. The starting point for these works are collages of pictures from travel brochures and fashion magazines, of pictures of the naïve eating- and playing pleasures of children, and the sensually seductive attractions of adults, artfully mixed and mounted on the computer. Here Koons sets his art into the field of tension of his primary passions: childhood and sex. All preparatory work is done on the computer, the different color tones, shapes and layers constantly refined under the artist´s supervision. The final printout approved by Koons is then transferred in Old Masterly manner, as in a well-ordered Renaissance workshop, to traditional oil technique, under Koons´ constant supervision. "My belief in art includes a moral duty. When I make a work of art, I try to convey a sense of trust to the viewer through the quality of the craftsmanship.” Carried by a belief in the power of art as a positive field of communication, Koons´ mirrors and pictures directly address the viewer and his willingness to trust equally in the power of his real world as of his dreams. "I have a son, and it is fascinating to observe the same experience in a small child. My work goes on from here. I am interested in creating a body of work which frees the viewer from any sort of judgment-pressure. Above all it should remove the feeling that art passes some sort of judgment over him; give him self confidence so that he understands that judgments are irrelevant and have no place in life.”
Further information on the work of Jeff Koons can be found in the extensive catalogue-book which has been published on the occasion of the exhibition.
Series Easyfun Mirrors:
Giraffe (Light Brown), 1999
                        Donkey,  1999 Kangaroo (Orange), 2001      
An impressive catalogue of 134 pages, 28 x 24 cm, hardcover, cloth binding, in an American jacket, will be published on the occasion of the exhibition. All works shown in the exhibition from the three series Celebration, Easyfun and Easyfun - Etheral are illustrated in color and large format (40 illustrations). The illustrations are supplemented by numerous illustrations of works not exhibited from the three series. The series of works the Mirror is illustrated for the first time in its entirety in a catalogue.
The 30 text pages include an essay by Alison Gingeras as well as an introductory text by Eckhard Schneider. The book is in German and English and is published by Eckhard Schneider/Kunsthaus Bregenz, ATS 480.-, € 35.
    Exhibition: Eckhard Schneider
Assistants: Herbert Abrell, Cornelia Marlovits
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    The exhibition was sponsored by
AXA Nordstern Versicherungs-AG, Wien
Hypo Landesbank, Bregenz