In the 80s I thought Jeff Koons' art is only about the widening of the art world's 'good' taste by Kitsch. Today this is only one aspect of his work - he became much more personal.
The new pieces appear more mature than his earlier work: 'I find that the work for myself is more and more minimal. I have returned to the readymade. I have returned to really enjoying thinking about Duchamp.'
What is actually Kitsch?
The famous critic Clement Greenberg wrote in 1939: 'Where there is an avant-garde, generally we also find a rear-guard. True enough - simultaneously with the entrance of the avant-garde, a second new cultural phenomenon appeared in the industrial West: that thing to which the Germans give the wonderful name of Kitsch: popular, commercial art. Kitsch is mechanical and operates by formulas. Kitsch is vicarious experience and faked sensations.'
The French philosopher Jean Baudrillard writes on Kitsch: 'To the aesthetics of beauty and originality, kitsch opposes its aesthetics of simulation: it everywhere reproduces objects smaller or larger than life; it imitates materials (in plaster, plastic, etc.); it apes forms or combines them discordantly; it repeats fashion without having been part of the experience of fashion'
Koons' art is deeply rooted within art history: One of his idols, Salvador Dali, is frequently quoted in his his work.
The lobster in 'Acrobat' references to Dali's 'Telephone-homard - ou Téléphone aphrosisiaque' of 1936.
The moustache symbol in the 2003 work 'moustache' could refer also to Dali's beard. As well as to the moustache Duchamp painted on the Mona Lisa. It is mounted on the ceiling by two chains. Two smiling fake (non)inflatable swimming ring horses made of aluminum hang from the moustache symbol. It reminds me about his unrealized public sculpture project for the city of Hamburg.
Some critics say that Koons repeats himself to much. He is using similar figures (the balloon rabbit, comic figures, inflatable toys ...) on and on. He answers: 'An artist has to have an anchor in personal iconography. You need it; it gives you a sense of traction, a base to hold on to, a vocabulary to speak from.'
Many of the stupidly smiling fake (non)inflatable toys are caged or tied to something: The caterpillar within the ladder of 'Caterpillar ladder' or the Walruses in the dustbins of 'Seal Walrus Trashcans' Maybe these ready mades could also be read as his comment on middle class dreams caught within the economic crisis?