Bursting with swirling lines and intertwining planes of high-keyed imagery, Beach exhibits the artist’s “trademark marriage of computerized precision and free-floating fantasy” (Robert Rosenblum, “Dream Machine,” in: Exh. Cat., Berlin, Jeff Koons: Easyfun-Ethereal, Deutsche Guggenheim, p. 46). In the present work, Koons creates a complex web of iconographic juxtapositions: kernels of corn beside a hand resting atop a woman’s backside; a shimmering diamond chain draping across a scant lilac undergarment; bright blonde hair framing lush green leaves; the swelling tide of a river rushing behind a pile of steamed green beans. Koons melds the images together, creating a structure that brims with drama and energy—yet his bold and sweeping lines subvert the implications of physical gestural energy, as they have in fact been edited, enlarged, and layered in Photoshop before being carefully repainted with photorealist precision. His process of making bespeaks the contemporary moment and its endless possibilities for creation. In terms particularly evocative of the present work, Michelle Kuo writes that his use of digital technology “represent[s] the complete reversal of the serial production of Minimalism and the legacy of sculptural multiples that preceded it...Koons’s work forces the new digital customization into confrontation with the industrial-era act of making an identical copy” (Michel Kuo in: Exh. Cat., New York, The Whitney Museum of American Art, Jeff Koons: A Retrospective, 2014, pp. 251-52).
Despite its contemporary means of production, Beach exhibits a deep resonance with the history of art, drawing upon the spectacle of the Baroque, the fantastical ethos of Surrealism, and the turn to consumer culture of Pop art. In describing Koons’s affinity to the Baroque, art historian Robert Rosenblum explains that the “intricate, gravity-defiant asymmetries of many of Koons’s restlessly curving shapes—the curls of a salad green, the undulant contours of breeze-blown hair—revive the language of the most spectacularly ornate manifestations of German Baroque” (Robert Rosenblum, “Dream Machine,” in: Exh. Cat., Berlin, Deutsche Guggenheim, Jeff Koons: Easyfun-Ethereal, 2000, p. 49). With its incorporation of commercial imagery and its adaptation of advertising techniques, Beach takes on the legacy of Pop, drawing particular influence from the work of James Rosenquist. Its evocation of free association calls to mind the Surrealist fascination with the unconscious mind and its relation to sexual desire. Koons revels in the artistic legacy of the great masters of art history to create an image that is uniquely of its time and continuous with the past.
Visually arresting and supremely seductive, Beach serves as a veritable testament to Koons’s artistic achievement. Its technical perfection and thematic effervescence create a dreamland of total delight; Beach “rush[es] us from one enchantment to another, from the pleasures of childhood food, fun and games...to the pleasures of grown-up lust...In other words, the range embraces two of the constant obsessions in Koons’s art—kid stuff and sex” (Ibid, pp. 46-49).
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