That’s one way of describing Jeff Koons’ latest work, currently on show at the brilliant David Zwirner gallery in Chelsea, New York City.
As I walked into the white-walled gallery, I was overwhelmed by the unexpected sight: numerous life-sized Greco-Roman sculptures surrounded me in a lively, curious dance. Hercules, Aphrodite, Narcissus, Dionysius… they were all there, torn from their world of antiquity and relocated to modernity, where the concept of time simply fades away. All the sculptures are made out of pure white plaster, and each of them is holding a perfect sphere made of electric blue glass, giving each sculpture an incredible sense of balance. The stark chromatic contrast between the blue and the white, as well as the impact from the sheer size of the figures, lends the works a very contemporary look and feel.
The idea of the glass balls, which are painted from the inside, comes from the artist’s childhood in York, Pennsylvania, where middle-class families would place them in their gardens. They would gradually become status symbols: the balls’ glassy, mirror-like surface entrancing their owners with their all-seeing power.
Jeff Koons, figurative sculptor and artist, has created a collage of pop culture and art history. Here is the artist speaking of Gazing Balls:
“I had the idea for Gazing Balls for decades. I wanted to show the affirmation, the generosity, the sense of place and the pleasure of the senses that the Gazing Balls represent. The Gazing Balls series is based on the idea of transcendence. Our realization of our own mortality is an abstract thought - from there, we can reach an understanding of the outside world, our family, our community, we can engage in an open dialogue with humanity at large beyond the present moment. The Gazing Balls series is about the philosopher’s vision; starting from the senses, and directing our gaze out towards the eternal through pure form and ideas.”
The New York Times calls Koons the most important American artist since Warhol. I believe he is a significant artist of our time: he seems to possess an extraordinary ability to capture and express the values and desires of the modern age. The visions of our contemporary artists allow us to see our own societies and their woes reflected back at us; societies infected by complacency, consumerism, immediacy, new technology, utilitarianism. By understanding them, or at least acknowledging them, we are empowered to create a different future for ourselves.