The Use of Appropriation in Jeff Koons' and Barbara Kruger’s Art

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About this sample


Words: 1104 |

Pages: 2|

6 min read

Published: Aug 6, 2021

Words: 1104|Pages: 2|6 min read

Published: Aug 6, 2021

Contemporary artists have appropriate past artwork to repurpose so it more relevant for the future society. Postmodernism was a broad movement that developed in the mid to late 20th century as a reaction against Modernism. It can be said that modernism has paved the way for Postmodernism however while modernism was based on the idealism and reason, postmodernism is about scepticism and suspicion of reason. Postmodern art would usually make the audience to question the pre-existence theorises that was made about art, social, politics, and economics and challenged the idea that there are universal certainties or truths. There are no rules about style in post-modern art except “traditional and typical” and technologic was accept as a medium. Stereotype, mass media, comic-style images and kitsch become acceptable. There are devices that postmodern artist use is appropriation, parody, pastiche, satire and irony. Appropriation art is when an artist borrows, adopt, recycle a pre-existing artwork and made little change to it, adding or recontextualizes the meaning of the original artwork. Many artists have used appropriation to express what they feel about social and bring attention to the topic they feel people should pay attention, Barbara Kruger and Jeff Koon are some of the successful ones that have done that.

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Barbara Kruger is an American conceptual artist, collagist and feminist artist. Her famous trademark style is photographic work that appropriate black and white photograph was taken from magazines with a directive and provocative slogan stated in white on bold red to challenged cultural assumptions and question how mass media influence the role of women in society. Those words on her art introduce ironies into cultural idioms and make the viewer to linger those word in their mind. One of her iconic artworks was “I shop therefore I am” is so famous that it was being reproduced on item like shopping bag and t-shirt. This image contains a black and white picture of a hand and the slogan I shop therefore I am written in white in Futura Bold font in a red rectangle box in the middle of the image. The choice of colour helps the slogan stand out and the text has an immediate impact on the audience.

The statement “I shop therefore I am” was borrowed René Descartes' philosophical claim “I think therefore I am”. The meaning for this statement is anyone capable to simply think is already proving their proof of existence. By simply changing the word ‘think’ to ‘shop’ Barbara has used this statement to criticise how people are not seen and judge by what one thinks anything but rather by what they owed, replacing their self-worth with materialistic items. “I shop therefore I am” help expresses her concerns that the modern society is turning to a plastic society where people focus on what they own and their social image than who they are and their achievement. An important point here is the message is even more relevant now than when the artwork was made since social media is such a big thing in today society.

Jeff Koons is a one of America most popular contemporary artists and his subject usually involves taste, pleasure, celebrity and commerce. He uses appropriate in many of his work, he borrows techniques and style from art historical. He is best known for his oversized bright and shiny sculptures of kitschy toys, and ornaments that are made with high chromium stainless steel. Like his artwork “Balloon Dog” it even set the record for the most expensive work ever sold at audition by a living. However, the artwork that first brings fame for Jeff Koons is the iconic “Michael Jackson and Bubbles” in 1988. This artwork is a life-sized white and gold gilded porcelain of Michael Jackson leaning back on a flower bed with his chimpanzee pet, Bubbles sitting on his lap. It was nearly identical to a press photo of them however he shifts Jackson position a little, so it looks like the masterpiece by Michelangelo, Pietà where he claims he found inspiration from. This piece of art original show Mary sorrowfully contemplating the dead body of her son on her lap. By changing Mary to Michael, the meaning of the artwork change to Koons seeing Michael Jackson is like a god, beautiful and royal with that golden. Which was true at that time and till now Michael Jackson is considered a pop royalty no one ever come close to the influence he had in the music industry. Also, the fact that Koons uses the gold colour to remind the viewer of the time where everything Michael Jackson touch is gold.

In the “Banality” exhibition Jeff Koons said he wants to focus on his dialogue about people accepting their history. That why Michael Jackson became the centrepiece of his exhibition, he said: 'For me, Michael Jackson served as a kind of spiritual authority who could help people feel secure in embracing their culture, whatever it was,'. Jeff Koon shows his support on the message of acceptance to all culture when having worked with much other celebrity in the future that has different race and culture. This artwork has brought many different reactions like the pop star fan was offended about how white-skinned and feminine he looks with the heavily lined eye and a red lip. But Koons doesn't show any care to this matter he explains that 'When Apollo played music, he inspired a transformation that transcended gender, so that the male became more female. Michael is the modern Apollo.' Even though Koons claims that there is no hidden meaning in his art some critics said that the artwork is like Catholic saint sculptured from gold leaf and porcelain while some said that it symbolises the human fantasy for self-exploration and discovery. In the end, this sculpture has now turned to a beautiful reminder and representation of the pop star in his younger day.

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Barbara Kruger and Jeff Koons are both great examples of how and why an artist uses appropriate in their artwork. While Kruger uses it to express her concern and critic how the society is turning into a plastic society where people shape people identity base on what they own than what they think in her work “I shop therefore I am”. In Jeff Koons work he usually uses appreciate to remind of those great things that he has seen in his life experience and express how he sees them in his point of view. That why he turns Michael Jackson into a beautiful god or royalty in “Michael Jackson and Bubbles” because in his eye he like royalty in the music industry and show the admired he has for him. 

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Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

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The Use Of Appropriation In Jeff Koons’ And Barbara Kruger’s Art. (2021, August 06). GradesFixer. Retrieved April 23, 2024, from
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