Guy Hepner is pleased to present Jeff Koons: Gazing Ball, a feature exhibition showcasing the artist’s ground breaking series created between 2016 and 2021. Please join us for the opening reception on June 29th at Guy Hepner, 521 W. 26th St, Floor 5, NY – from 6pm – 8pm.
The series of twelve artworks tells the story of art history under the contemporary guise. Jeff Koons references masterpieces by the likes of Gauguin, Monet and Reubens and pairs them with a highly reflective, cobalt blue gazing ball.
Looking at the Gazing Ball works, the viewer sees oneself reflected in the mirrored surface at the same time as one sees the print. This juxtaposition of art historical reference with the viewer’s present-day reflection invites a dialogue about the meaning of time and how we transcend it. “This experience is about you,” says Koons, “your desires, your interests, your participation, your relationship with this image.” He says that the images he used—some of the most famous in art history—are not intended to represent the canon, but are rather “works that I enjoy… my cultural DNA.”
He also points out that many of the artists referred to in the series have influenced one another: “Monet is always referencing Rubens… Manet is referencing Raphael… Everybody enjoyed Titian.” The Gazing Ball print series raises important questions about the act of looking, reflection (actual and metaphorical), and the relationship between the pictures. This is “not about being a copy,” Koons says. “This is about this union, the concept of participating. Everybody’s in this dialogue of sharing enjoyment and pleasure.
Making of the Gazing Ball
The story of the reflective glass that comprises the gazing balls began 35 million years ago. At the time, what would eventually become the town of Fontainebleau in the south of France was an ocean bottom at the center of a tidal vortex. Constant washing of seawater churned the rocky quartz bottom into a 30-meter-deep seabed composed of high-purity silica, with grains roughly the same size. Over the following millennia this sand strata rose upwards until it was discovered by French farmers, who struggled to grow crops in it. The sand was highly valued by the first modern glassworkers however, who were dissatisfied with the Italian silicates sourced from the Alps.
The French king Francis I lived for a time at Château Fontainebleau, commissioning a series of stained glass windows which would later inspire the founding of the nearby Royal Glassworks at Bagneaux sur Loing, where Corning would eventually establish an ophthalmics laboratory. It was in that lab that cobalt was mixed with molten glass to produce the exact shade of blue Jeff Koons desired for his Gazing Ball works. The glass is mixed in small batches to produce boules (French for ball or loaf), disks which can be annealed at a manageable rate and verified to be free of impurities.
The glass is then sliced into 1 millimeter wafers and shipped to China to be polished until they’re perfectly flat, with a just imperceptible micrometer chamfer. Then the wafers come to New York, where a company that produces spaceship windows loads the wafers into vacuum chambers and feeds pure silver through a plasma sputter. The silver vapor coalesces on the glass as a mirror, which is then sealed with another vapor deposited silica layer. The final object is a stunningly thin film of silver sealed inside an exactingly blue disk of glass.