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Jeff Koons rose to prominence in the mid-1980s as part of a generation of artists who explored the meaning of art in a media-saturated era and a perceived crisis of representation. With his stated artistic intention to “communicate with the masses,” Koons draws from the visual language of advertising, marketing, and the entertainment industry. Testing the limits between popular and elite culture, his sculptural menagerie includes Plexiglas-encased Hoover vacuum cleaners, basketballs suspended in glass aquariums, photo-based paintings of himself copulating with his then-wife Ilona Staller (also known as La Cicciolina, former adult-film star and member of Italian parliament), and porcelain homages to Michael Jackson and the Pink Panther. Extending the lineage of Dada and integrating traces of Minimalism and Pop, Koons stages art as a commodity that cannot be placed in a conventional aesthetic hierarchy.
For the series
This work, along with others in Easyfun-Ethereal, is part of Koons's new brand of Pop painting, recalling in particular the advertising iconography and billboard-style painting technique present in James Rosenquist's canvases. In Sandwiches the artist refers to this predecessor by including the glistening chrome of a 1963 Chevy Impala at the upper right corner. At the same time, the collage of animated deli meats, the turkey made of ice cream, and the cartoon eye and moustache recall the free-associative imagery of Salvador Dalí, Max Ernst, and René Magritte, while the background streams and splashes of milk echo Jackson Pollock's abstractions. Koons's fusion of Pop representations with Surrealist and abstract overtones creates a hybrid of fun and fantasy, yielding a body of work that depicts gravity-defying forms of dreamlike pleasure.