"By probing the iconography of childhood and innocence with the diligence of a CEO, Jeff Koons has once again managed in an ultramodernist (meaning nearly Marxist) fashion, to expose the innermost structures of desire in the art object."
-- Vic Muniz in "Eternal Regress", Parkett #50/51, 1997
Jeff Koons' sensational magenta stainless steel sculpture, Hanging Heart (Magenta and Gold), floats as if weightless; magnificently suspended by a flamboyant looping sash of gold curling ribbon; its flawless iridescent surface beckoning the beholder to marvel at the artist's most opulent of valentines. Part of the mythic Celebration series which Koons began in 1994 with Balloon Dog , Hanging Heart (Magenta and Gold) is a unique work from a series of five painstakingly fine-tuned versions (including an artist's proof) each rendered in its own sumptuous flush of color. Viewed for the first time since its physical realization, Hanging Heart (Magenta and Gold) is an unforeseen revelation of creative and technical mastery and breaks ground as the first of its kind to be welcomed to the United States.
Jeff Koons has always acted as the head of a complicated operation that requires the cooperation and support of many people. This operation, also known as the artist's studio, is composed of an intricate hierarchy of assisting technicians, artisans and artists each with varying areas of mastered specialty. This structure has often prompted theoretical comparison with the multi-faceted studios of the Renaissance masters, who employed numerous artisans and artists to help them render a physical reality from seemingly divine inspiration. Executing Koons' collection of stainless steel monuments requires extraordinary precision, finesse and lavish attention to detail in order to achieve the necessary perfection of the highest order. Koons is an artist who does not allow compromise and will not deviate from his inspiration, no matter how impossible it may seem. The brilliant magenta heart and undulating gold bow took ten years to complete its journey from conception to completion. The monumental heart's perfect surface is coated with more than ten layers of paint, and executed in high chromium stainless steel the present work weighs 3,500 pounds, is over 9 feet tall and took over 6,000 man hours to produce. Hanging Heart (Magenta and Gold), the Celebration series, and Koons' overall body of work is all about making the impossible possible.
The Celebration series comprises twenty different sculptures and sixteen paintings inspired by Koons' enduring preoccupation with childhood experiences and child-like consciousness. Koons began work on the Celebration series after his ex-wife Ilona Staller, more publicly known as the porn star La Cicciolina, left him in 1993 and took their son to Italy, sparking a long-running custody battle. The series can be distilled into four major iconic themes informed by this afore-mentioned child-like consciousness of the major celebratory milestones in life such as birthdays and holidays. The artist has explained that the Celebration series was born of an attempt to communicate with his estranged son; using a distilled language of childhood iconography and blowing it up to fantastical proportions. In this sense, Hanging Heart (Magenta and Gold) is a father's most basic and incontestable expression of love for his son: the purest, plumpest, and most glorious of valentines.
Within this work, there is simultaneously an undeniable and overwhelming sense of physicality that taps the more base inclinations and attractions of our adult humanity.
"I am sometimes frightened by his work, frightened because of some absolute perfection in what he does. This man seems to know not only the magic of all technical means, but also the most secret strands of human thought, images, ideas and feeling. He creates somewhere in the realm of the very pure and most primal depths. He creates on the conceptual level of man not yet shackled by logic reason or experience. There, where we are all children of nature."
- Sergei Eisenstein on Walt Disney
Koons has also mastered the technical means necessary to create his art, and he has accessed, as only a very few story-tellers and artists have, a means of unconscious communication, a forum for creating that directly permeates our sensibilities. In the case of some of Koons' work, our social education, our sense of history and experience might throw up barriers of outrage or disbelief when faced with the more Duchampian, never mind pornographic expressions of humanity. But we all know what we are looking at, and on some level we can't help but relate.
It is this very same magic of basic essence and its method of communication that infuses Koons' larger body of work. Since the late 1970s, Koons has produced thematically titled, project-oriented groups whose meaning and strength stem from clusters of mutually related pieces. These groups of works have all appealed, and appalled, based on these same "strands of human thought, images, ideas and feeling." The notion of intrinsic or rather inherent paradox has also played an important and alluring role within Koons' body of work. This too can be seen in Hanging Heart (Magenta and Gold) as the scale, finish and media all contradict and challenge the triggered emotional associations of this token of merrymaking.
From the Duchampian found-objects of his 1970s works (the inflatable toys, and the encased Hoover and household appliance sculptures and installations) to the breadth of the artist's technical and creative exploration in the 1980s (silk-screens and posters of advertising imagery, impossibly weighty cast bronze sculptures, statuary in marble, stainless steel and wood, folklore inspired tchachkies, childhood toys and adult pornography) to the 1990s return to a playground of childhood imagery, Koons consistently lures in the viewer with his universal iconography, drawn from the reservoirs of mass culture.
Hanging Heart (Magenta and Gold), silently hovers, apparently weightless 16 inches above the floor. Suspended by the most perfect of gilded bows, the over-sized bauble teases our sensibilities, triggering memories and simultaneously forcing our hand. Do we believe in its promise of weightless love and shimmering beauty....or is it too impossible to grasp? And so Koons leaves us, the viewer....suspended, like the heart, in a state of wonder. Hanging Heart (Magenta and Gold) mesmerizes and captures us like moths to the flame by its inconceivable existence.
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