Text by Scott Rothkopf, with contribution by Hans Ulrich Obrist
The definitive survey of Jeff Koons’s Hulk Elvis paintings, including an extensive interview with the artist in his studio.
From the outset of his controversial career, Jeff Koons turned the traditional notion of the work of art and its context inside out. Focusing on unexpected yet banal objects as models for his work, he eschewed typical standards of “good taste” in art, instead embracing what he perceives as conventional middle-class values in order to expose the vulnerabilities of aesthetic hierarchies and value systems. Koons’s declared strategies are to make art beautiful, to strive for objectivity, to give back the familiar, and to reflect, and thus empower, the viewer. The works of Koons’s series Hulk Elvis burst with energy and precision yet mystify with their complex permutations and combinations of figurative and abstract elements. A charged mix of inflatable monkeys, geishas, birds, the Incredible Hulk, and the Liberty Bell jostle against realistically rendered landscapes, gestural paintings, steam engines and horse-drawn carriages, negative silhouettes, and underlying dot screens.