PRINT September 2014

Carol Bove

Advertisement by Jeff Koons from Flash Art, no. 143 (November/ December 1988).

THE FIRST TIME I encountered Jeff Koons was through the hype. I was a teenager living in Oakland or Berkeley, going to the California College of Arts and Crafts, and my friends were talking about how this artist had hired a PR consultant and was mounting a big ad campaign to promote himself. I didn’t know what to think of the ads; they were both genuinely seductive and a little scary. They were not as heavy-handed as the other things I might have grouped them with stylistically (i.e., imagery perversely recuperating clean-cut 1950s styles, like that of Church of the SubGenius or Twin Peaks), but they were too self-aware to not be ironic at all. Or were they? Since then, I’ve come to understand his work as nondualistic, since it contains opposing mutually exclusive positions without ambivalence. But in my teens I simply knew that what he was doing was important.

The ads caused a paradigm shift in my thinking. That an artist had recognized persona, mass media, and commerce as conditions of sculpture and that he had co-opted their tools and techniques as a part of his artmaking made me believe art was capable of expressing my historical moment, of being relevant. And he was not merely cooperating with the commercial system and embracing it—he was using cooperation as a form of aggression. His consciousness of the total context of an art object in that time and place made me abandon my program of willful ignorance about contemporary art and start making plans to move to New York.

Carol Bove is an artist based in New York.