Artist and Musician Biographies


Here is Jeff Koons on 'Art is a Vehicle of Acceptance,' on TateShots.

When discussing art and the controversy of its context, one cannot fail to recognize pop artist Jeff Koons. Born in 1955, in York, Pennsylvania, Jeff inherited his artistic background from his father, a self-employed interior decorator. When merely five years of age, he participated in his first structured art lesson, igniting the passion that would influence the rest of his life.

Koons began his artistic career studying at the Maryland Institute of Art, only to transfer three years later to the Art Institute of Chicago. Interestingly, after several years of artistic education, Jeff felt the urge to make a career shift, and opted to experiment with his marketing skills in the business setting. He, like so many before him, set out to conquer Wall Street, eventually settling on the position of a commodity broker. But like any other artist brimming with creativity and trapped in a confining setting, Koons broke free from his binding ties and returned to the world of art in New York City.

Modeling himself after the style of Andy Warhol's pop art, and Marcel Duchamp's ready-mades, Koons delighted in the controversy and artistic debate that accompanied his works. Early in his career his elation with the defiance of the norm became evident. He, like many of his fellow pop artists, drew on the influence and unrestrained ideals of the big city clubs and streets.

Jeff added a facet of interest to his work by incorporating the theory of kitch and camp into his style. Combing properties of kitch, images not usually considered artistic, and camp, items so absurdly irrelevant that they create a new sense of interest, Jeff quickly gained attention and criticism. Using what was often viewed as "tacky" plastic souvenir objects, or bright pieces of inflated vinyl as a medium, Koons developed a new provocative style of ready-made sculpture. Later, to ensure permanency, and durability, he began to cover the objects in shell of brass or metal.

Stirring the opinions of the critics even further, Koons launched another debatable campaign with his incorporation of common household appliances into his work, and therefore the realm of art. For the composition of these assisted ready-mades, he combined his interest in physics and technology, with brimming creativity in regards to context and aesthetics. Several of his most interesting pieces include items that one might find in their own utility closet or garage.

In his creation of the new work, Jeff utilized the lowly status of everyday Hoover vacuum cleaners by placing them in a showcase with fluorescent lighting, elevating them to museum quality works of art.

Possibly the most famous piece from his collection of ready-mades is "Equilibrium", which consists of nothing more than a collection of basketballs floating at varying levels in an aquarium, accompanied by oil paintings of Nike advertisements. While these seemingly simple pieces may seem to be an insult to the art world they were in fact, carefully constructed with a great deal of consideration as well as intellect. For the creation of "Equilibrium", Koons went so far as to consult with physicist and Nobel Prize Laureate, Dr. Richard Feynman.

Perhaps though, the most interesting aspect of Koon's art, was the realm that was also viewed by critics as the most intimate. Always being one to inspire debate, Jeff incorporated this controversy into his lifestyle as well. Marrying (and eventually divorcing) Italian porn star, Cicciolina, he publicized through film and sculpture the most private aspects of their sexual relationship. It seems that by his personal consent to publish these works, he seeks to avoid creating sexual arousal, and instead liberates the viewer from self-consciousness and observes his art without guilt.

Dabbling in the realm of topiary sculpture, Koons has made startling innovations in the horticultural area of art. His earthly topiary "Puppy" has its own irrigation system, and holds hundreds of thousands of flowers. Composed entirely of organic material, Koons seems to have literally breathed life into art.

In one of Jeff's more current shows, a series entitled "Celebration", he expresses a childlike sense of nostalgia and excitement expressed through color and subject matter. He becomes enveloped in vivid paintings and sculptures of children's games, toys, and animals. One critic seemed to sense that the animation and exhilaration was actually only a diversion masking Koon's underlying emotions of longing and sorrow for his young son Ludwig, who lives apart from Koons in England.

To keep his name out front and his work well known, Koons has once again entered the marketing realm of society. He recently made a business agreement with an online art retailer, Eyestorm. For a mere five hundred dollars, one can purchase, online, a print of Jeff's work. By keeping his pieces in a contemporary setting, Koons has creatively ensured that his fame and credibility outlast everyone's expectations.

Jeff Koons is by no means a static artist, proven by his undying desire to incorporate all aspects of life into art. His ready-mades, though often discredited as true art, do however prove themselves an art form by the controversy they inspire. Koons, like his predecessor Marcel Duchamp, seems to delight in the friction and irritation that his pieces provoke, as he continues to constantly challenge the system. His diversity in relation to medium and aesthetics keep his work dynamic as he continues to keep his critics aggravated and annoyed.

Page author: J.S.