Standing almost seven feet tall, Jeff Koons' Baroque Egg with Bow (Blue/Turquoise) is a feast for the eyes with its crinkled, sensual surface resulting in a rich, almost mouth-watering appearance. This is only too appropriate in this vast reincarnation of the Easter Egg. This appears to be a Platonic archetype of that confectionary - the candy has become gigantic, having been granted a Koonsian apotheosis in this gleaming monument to the awe of childhood. Baroque Egg with Bow (Blue/Turquoise) forms a part of Koons' Celebration series, which he embarked upon in the 1990s. For some time, Koons' obsession with this series was seen as almost quixotic: the perfectionism he demanded in his sculptures, combined with some other extraneous factors, meant that several of the finished works only appeared more than a decade after they had originally been conceived, as is the case with Baroque Egg with Bow (Blue/Turquoise). That perfectionism is clearly on display here: the shining, wrinkled surface depicting the wrapped egg is filled with crystalline crests and rifts that have all been granted the same clear patination. Meanwhile, the looping, Möbius-strip-like arcs of the ribbon that crowns this sculpture have a smoothness that would inspire envy in Constantin Brancusi Working in collaboration with a German firm, Arnold AG, Koons managed to perfect the casting techniques that result in the incredible transparent, mirror-sheen surface of his Celebration sculptures.
As well as its pristine surface, the ovoid form and indeed subject matter of Baroque Egg with Bow (Blue/Turquoise) appear to pay tribute to Brancusi, one of the greatest pioneers of sculpture in the modern era. In several of his own works, for instance his sculptures of new-borns and of sleeping muses, Brancusi used curving forms which recalled eggs, and as such conveyed a concept of creation and procreation. They contain a sense of infinite potential and imminent life. This is crucial subject matter for Koons as well: the egg is a theme that has recurred in several works in the Celebration series, for instance the painting and the sculpture each entitled Cracked Egg, as well as the picture Bread with Egg and the sculptures Bowl with Eggs and the related Smooth Egg with Bow.
Koons introduces a sense of birth and rebirth alike in Baroque Egg with Bow (Blue/Turquoise): appearing as though it should belong on some giant confectionary stand, Baroque Egg with Bow (Blue/Turquoise) also hints at the imminent emergence of some new lifeform, some new era. In this sense it recalls Salvador Dalí's painting Geopoliticus Child Watching the Birth of the New World, in which a new man emerges from an egg upon which a map of the world is visible, with Europe partially crushed and the figure emerging as though he were the incarnation of North America. Dalí's work may have been in part a slighting comment on the change of the balance of power during the 1940s and the emergence of the United States as a superpower. Baroque Egg with Bow (Blue/Turquoise)'s composition, for instance the ribbons which take the place the baldaquin hanging over the egg, clearly echoes Dalí's panting. However, unlike the more cynical Spanish artist, whom he had met in his youth, Koons is demonstrating his customary earnestness and is instead celebrating the potential birth of a new age.
For Koons, the Celebration series was concerned with the cycle of life, a concept that he conveyed through the use of milestones in the calendar of the year and in a life. Accordingly, flowers, diamonds, cakes and toys all came to feature in the paintings and sculptures from the series. In this way, he managed to evoke notions of seduction, of romance, of reproduction and of birth. In his egg-related works, he therefore references sex, birth and also the concept of resurrection while also paying tribute to the joy and wonder of eating candy, one of the ultimate consumer pleasures. 'I was interested in the dialogue with nature and aspects of the eternal, the here and now, the physical with the ephemeral,' Koons has explained in terms that clearly relate to Baroque Egg with Bow (Blue/Turquoise). 'You know, aspects of images and the spiritual world. So this balance of the symmetrical and asymmetrical, a sense of the fertile, and a sense of the eternal through biology and procreation, and then, on the other hand, you have the sense of the spiritual, very ethereal, eternal: the polarities' (J. Koons, quoted in P.K. Schuster, 'In Conversation with Jeff Koons', pp. 84-93, A. Hüsch (ed.), Jeff Koons: Celebration, exh. cat., Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Berlin 2008, p. 87).
It is for this spiritual reason that Koons has touched upon the Baroque in both the Celebration works and in other earlier series such as Banality and Made in Heaven. There, as here, he combined subject matter taken from secular life and from popular culture, granting them an apotheosis through craftsmanship and ornament that itself invoked the opulent quality of decoration used in churches during the Counter-Reformation. This is echoed in the rich, furrowed surface of the wrapping in Baroque Egg with Bow (Blue/Turquoise) and in the hallucinatory curlicues of the ribbon. Both in those earlier works and here, Koons was turning the Baroque aesthetic to his own advantage, using it as a signpost: 'I use the Baroque to show the public that we are in the realm of the spiritual, the eternal. The church uses the Baroque to manipulate and seduce, but in return it does give the public a spiritual experience. My work deals in the vocabulary of the Baroque' (J. Koons, quoted in A. Muthesius, Jeff Koons, Cologne, 1992, p. 158).
Throughout Koons' career, the spiritual aspect of procreation has run as a thread in his work as he encourages his viewers to accept the facts of life and to shrug off any, say, Judeo-Christian sense of shame related to sex. In that sense, Baroque Egg with Bow (Blue/Turquoise) continues the work of his Made in Heaven series, with Koons inviting his viewers to overcome their hang-ups regarding both sex and, crucially, taste and thence to embrace something as monumental and ephemeral as this vast Easter Egg.
Koons has amplified the sense of wonderment that is conjured by Baroque Egg with Bow (Blue/Turquoise) through both its scale and its crisp, mirrored, tactile appearance. In a sense, in his Celebration sculptures Koons was creating idealised, larger-than-life versions of elements of the real world. Discussing this, he has said that, 'archetypes are really things that help everyone survive in the world. So they are bigger than everybody. That is the reason for their scale. It is not to intimidate at all, it's more that I love vanilla ice cream so instead of a little scoop I make a big scoop' (Koons, quoted in T. Nichols Goodeve, 'Euphoric Enthusiasm: Jeff Koons's Celebrations', pp. 88-93, Parkett, no. 50/51, 1997, p. 90). At the same time, that channelling of a concentrated, intoxicating and overwhelming sense of fascination and amazement was intended to evoke childhood. In particular, Koons has explained that the Celebration works became a form of message to his son Ludwig, who had been taken from him following his divorce: 'It was a way for me to communicate with him how much I was missing him' (J. Koons, quoted in I. Sischy, 'Jeff Koons' World', pp. 9-18, H. Werner Holzwarth (ed.), Jeff Koons, Cologne, 2009, p. 16).
Jeff Koons (1955)
Jeff Koons , 2000s, Sculptures, Statues & Figures, United States of America, Contemporary
POST-WAR & CONTEMPORARY ART
79 7/8 x 89 x 42½in. (203 x 226 x 108cm.)
H. W. Holzwarth (ed.), Jeff Koons, Cologne 2007 (Pink/Gold illustrated in colour, p. 404).
For What You Are About to Receive, exh. cat., Moscow, Gagosian Gallery, 2008 (Turquoise/Magenta illustrated in colour, pp. 29, 214, 219 and 232f).
Jeff Koons: Celebration, exh. cat., Berlin, Neue Nationalgalerie, 2008, p. 81 (Turquoise/Magenta detail illustrated in colour, p. 50).
A. Haden-Guest, 'Takeover Moscow', in Whitewall, Winter 2009 (Turquoise/Magenta illustrated in colour, p. 49).
A. Abascal, "Vestir una Pasion," in Vogue, May 2011 (Pink/Gold illustrated in colour, p. 314).
Gagosian Gallery, New York.
Private Collection, Europe.
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