Jeff Koons is an artist very well versed in the history of art. His influences range from Rococo masters, to legends such as Marcel Duchamp and Roy Lichtenstein, to fellow contemporary artists. From the past, to the present, Koons absorbs all these various influences, and creates works immediately recognizable as uniquely his own. Always interested in communicating to a wide audience through the use of media, the artist's ability to challenge the viewer is uncanny.
Seemingly a reinterpretation of one of Vincent Van Gogh's famous canvases of sunflowers, (Vase of Flowers), 1988 falls within one of Koons' most famous bodies of work Banality. Within this series the artist created sculptures in porcelain, polychromed wood, and mirrors, all of which contain hints of the rococo.
Rococo was an eighteenth-century style of art based on refinement, linearity, grace and playfulness. Artists utilized such motifs as arabesque elements, shells, branch leaves and flowers in engaging compositions. Inherent to this style are class associations, as the style has been coupled with different classes at various times. It would seem that it was this inherent conflict which appealed to Koons as the artist's work mixes "banal" subject matter with "high brow" ideas, or "low" culture and "high" culture. Furthermore, associations with the idea of craftsmanship and artifice are also associated with rococo. "The rococo may have been the first metadiscourse in art, in which art is understood as a self-conscious illusion and in which aesthetic appreciation is grounded in the awareness of artifice" (D. Salvioni, "Jeff Koons's Poetics of Class", Jeff Koons, San Francisco 1992, p.22).
(Vase of Flowers), 1988 makes clear the artist's interest in artifice as it calls to mind beveled mirrors of another age. Yet it blatantly cannot be used for its intended purpose as the viewer's own reflection becomes refracted and unclear. The work plays with the idea of the object's use, as the emphasis here is on decoration rather than practicality. Always one to push limits of associations, Koons has recreated a modern version of an age-old symbol of luxury and glamour.
Vincent Van Gogh, Still Life: Vase with Twelve Sunflowers, Arles, August 1888
Munich, Bayerische Staatsgemaldesammlungen, Neue Pinakothek