Jeff Koons considers communicating to the masses an extremely important artistic intention. In order to fulfill this desire, Koons combines the language of advertising with marketing techniques and the entertainment industry, mixing high and low cultures. Continuing the tradition established by Duchamp, and integrating more recent art historical references from Pop artists to the Minimalists, Koons creates a hybrid language of historical context, fantasy and the contemporary world.
At the end of 1999, Koons exhibited a new series of work entitled Easyfun at Sonnabend in New York. Once again the artist combined both painting and sculpture. In this case the sculptures were flat, brightly colored mirrors, which were reduced to easily recognizable animal shapes. Within this whimsical mirrored environment, the artist was able to exhibit, for the first time, paintings that were produced wet on wet, instead of using a collage technique. The paintings in Easyfun juxtapose familiar yet unrelated elements such as a character from a cereal box, luscious bright red cherries, fluffy whip cream, warm and melting chocolate chips, children's toys, or sexy views of a woman's body--strong references of popular culture rendered in photo-realist detail.
Meticulously hand painted with an incredible range of of mixed colors, Saint Benedict, 2000 juxtaposes an image of the saint with a halo composed of a deli-style sandwich. Bright yellow kernels of corn, green Baroque-like swirls and wonderfully rich hot chocolate which sensually flows from old-fashioned teacups wink at the viewer. Saint Benedict emerges as a wonderfully layered painting, wrought with historical and popular culture references.
This particular image of Saint Benedict was borrowed from one of Martin Knoller's painted vaults in Balthasar Neuman's Neresheim Abbey, a famous late Baroque German Benedictine monastery. In the 1990s Koons lived in Munich for a period and visited many eighteenth-century churches viewing the frescoes contained therein. It was then a natural progression for the artist to draw upon these images for inspiration and as points of departure. The Baroque had been a source of inspiration for Koons as early as his Banality series. The artist stated, "I use the Baroque to show the public that we are in the realm of the spiritual, the eternal." (J. Koons, The Jeff Koons Handbook, London 1992, p.106)
Saint Benedict is a playful combination of desirable and beautiful objects, a painted collage of visual popular culture. When discussing artists which successfully and sophistically mix together high and low culture, Jeff Koons is truly in a league of his own.