July 11th, 2014

 

Jeff Koons "Balloon Dog" sculpture at Versailles

Jeff Koons “Balloon Dog” sculpture at Versailles

A recent article in Art in America touched home for me. It’s entitled “Feeling” and is written by Jeff Koons, arguably one of the most successful artists of our time.

Koons’ work will always remind me of college, of museum tours with an Intro to Art History class trying to make our way, and make sense, in the contemporary art world of Los Angeles. At LACMA, I saw Gerhard Richter. Anselm Kiefer. Jasper Johns. After a childhood of exploring historical art, it was truly my first experience with contemporary art. Out of my comfort zone,  and fraught.

In the “Feeling” article, Koons speaks to the idea of surviving your first time viewing art. And I think many people can empathize with this idea. I know I can. To see something new, to think and feel in a new way, is terrifying.

“I vividly remember surviving my first day of art school… We went to the Baltimore Museum of Art. I saw works by Cezanne and Braque, and I didn’t know who they were… I feel like I survived that moment. And I don’t think a lot of people do. They feel like they’re not prepared. Trying out for a sports team: if you’re not already at a certain level, you’re not going to make it. But art doesn’t work that way.
I always try to make a work that will help people survive that first moment. So that, when they come into contact with art, it will be about their own history, their own potential.”

It was the Jeff Koons “Balloon Dog,” shining in a room of gray, that I could understand. That had meaning for me, as an eighteen-year-old, new to LA. And although I have come to appreciate the genius of Keifer, I will always thank Koons for making the transition to transcendence… easy.