US artist Jeff Koons has opened his first solo exhibition in London’s Serpentine Gallery with a series of Popeye paintings.
He says, “I always see a little bit of my father in Popeye. But something that’s not so personal as that. It’s “I yam what I yam”. It’s self-acceptance. And it’s hard to function in the metaphysical. You first have to trust in yourself and when you trust in yourself, you can follow your interests and follow them on a profound level. ANd when you focus on those interests, that’s when things become very metaphysical. So this concept of “I yam what I yam”. Koons, aka the The King of Kitsch, uses art to explore themes such as consumerism, taste, banality, childhood and sexuality. At first glance his art may have a infantile quality, but he says his preoccupations are deeper: “I was thinking that the spinach could be the art. And the ability for art to transform your life. Art has this unique way of connecting all the disciplines, it connects philosophy, theology, sociology. I think if you focus on any endeavour, it can do that, but art does it with such ease. And by the ability to do that, it really is to bring enlightenment and connect what it means to be human.” The lobsters in the show are a reference to Dali, and as far as the inflatables go, Koons says “In our own lives, we’re inflatables. We take a breath as a symbol of optimism, we exhale and it’s a symbol of death. We’re in a permanent state of optimism.” It may be remembered that Koons was briefly married to Italian porn star Cicciolina in the early 90s, during which period he courted controversy by exhibiting a series of paintings, photos and sculptures portraying the couple in explicit sexual positions. The exhibition at the Serpentine runs until 13th September.