Koons came to public attention with his 1985 show Equilibrium at International with Monument Gallery in New York. This solo exhibition debuted his first bronze sculptures, an array of Nike posters, and the now-famous Equilibrium Tanks, which contain basketballs floating miraculously in water-filled fish tanks. Writing about the series Daniela Salvioni aptly states that “Koons manipulates objects into metaphorical embodiments of society’s dysfunctions. This poetics of objects recalls Jasper Johns’ cast-bronze beer cans, in which an ordinary object becomes endowed with a surplus of meaning, and the surrealist tactic of juxtaposing unexpected elements, as in Meret Oppenheim’s fur-covered teacup” (Daniela Salvioni, ‘Jeff Koons’s Poetics of Class’, in: Exh. Cat., San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Jeff Koons, 1992, p. 20). Dealing with the broader issues of social mobility, Soccerball (Molten), and the Equilibrium series as a whole, broach the aspirational promises promoted by consumer culture – specifically those that target the under-privileged. In inner-city areas, professional sports are considered by many as the quintessential way out. Within the field of sport, ball sports such as basketball and football are the urban choice, suited to small backyards and inexpensive equipment. Koons glorified these in the present work, therefore, as tantalising and precarious metaphors for upward social mobility. The artist elaborates, “white middle-class kids have been using art the same way that other ethnic groups have been using basketball – for social mobility. You could take one of those basketball stars, Dr. Dunkenstein, or the Secretary of Defense, and one could have been me, or Baselitz, or whoever” (Angelika Muthesius, Jeff Koons, Cologne 1992, p. 19).
Impossibility and unsustainability are essential themes in the Koons’ Equilibrium series, and Soccerball (Molten) embodies these themes with undeniable sprezzatura. The meticulous cast and the rich colour of bronze arouse our curiosity and create a unique viewing sensation that is simultaneously solemn and buoyant, exciting and somber. Simultaneously, Soccerball (Molten) operates intellectually by allowing us to question, through the medium of sculpture, the act of preservation. Koons’ attempts to render all of the objects in his Equilibrium series useless. This is the state of equilibrium or balance toward which the entire Equilibrium series aspires, as the artwork is harmonised for the present, existing in stasis, almost inaccessible.
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