Jeff Koons: Michael Jackson and Bubbles, 1988

Jeff Koons: Michael Jackson and Bubbles, 1988

recently watched a koons documentary, which led me to some middle america artists he admires.  although koons is originally from PA – his influential work was formed while a chicagoan + is therefore oft associated with artists from that area.

Ed Paschke: Smooch

Ed Paschke: Smooch III, 1993

koons is deeply inspired by chicago imagist, ed paschke, whom wiki explains was “known for grotesquerie, surrealism and complete uninvolvement with New York art world trends”  paschke -as is clear from above reference piece- worked with bright neon color palettes and pop culture imagery.  despite seemingly lighthearted content, his vibrant work generally contained underlying themes of hostility and cruelty.

2 interview excerpts reveal a bit more:

What was your first job?
Inspecting feet at swimming pools. I had to make sure no one had bacteria or athlete’s foot.

Which artists have influenced you most?
In order: My dad who was an artist and got me started, the animation of Disney, the French Impressionists, Francis Bacon, Andy Warhol.

Karl Wirsum: Parking Lot Attendance is Up, 1976

Karl Wirsum: Parking Lot Attendance is Up, 1976

another SAIC alumni and koons’ favorite is karl wirsum: “part of the hairy who group in the early 1960s developed a style that combines a graphic sensibility — vivid, flat colors, simplified cartoon-like figures — with a sense of humor evident in the works themselves and also in the titles that second guess and play with words” <from jean albano gallery bio>

themes of jovial gaiety with brains – similar to keith haring‘s style – run throughout these artists’ works.  it’s clear koons draws upon wirsum + paschke’s love of playful art with purpose.  all three men appreciate pop culture iconography but hold ‘art’ to a higher ground – using their work to evoke discussion and contemplation.