Jeff Koons's Gazing Ball (2012) is a blue mirrored, hand-blown glass gazing ball that reflects its surroundings, uniting painting, sculpture, and architecture in order to multiply sensory experience. Like much of his work, the Gazing Ball series reactivates and intensifies familiar scenes, whether from legend or the everyday, reflecting and affirming viewers and their environments.
In Gazing Ball (2012), viewers encounter the monumentalized scale of a Roman-style sculpture, but also see themselves reflected in its mirrored surface. Like many of Koons's sculptures and paintings, it is an object that seems to defy gravity while trying to hold onto the falling colorless glass marble; only this time held up by a marble carved into the shape of his signature, it is a metaphor for how Koons both embraces and resists the legacy of classical sculpture. It also implies that he too could drop his own marble but chooses not to surrender to gravity or critical opinion by defying them with a whole new meaning.
More generally, each work displays a strong sense of theatricality and theatrical illusionism. The pieces are not about things, but rather the uses of things – their tactile quality and visual beauty – to serve as metaphors for ideas in order to transform reality into something else. As viewers step back from the Gazing Ball sculptures, they realize that what is reflected in each spherical mirror is specific to their own collected memories.
The Gazing Balls also reference famous artworks from the past. For example, in Koons's Michael Jackson and Bubbles (1988), the artist mirrored a sculpture of a puppy playing with a ball in order to create an infinite regress. Additionally, his Janus-like portrait of himself as both the "gazer" and the "gazed upon" in the Gazing Ball series may pay homage to Giacometti's sculpture The Chariot (1947–50), which also appears as an early influence in Koons's sculptures of "heroic" basketball players such as Michael Jordan and Dennis Rodman.
More recently, the series is a direct reference to canonical works of art, including de Kooning's monumental Excavation (1950), Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa (1503–06), and the iconic American Gothic by Grant Wood. As with much of his work, the Gazing Ball series reactivates and intensifies familiar scenes, whether from legend or the everyday, reflecting and affirming viewers and their environments. Each sculpture is a hand-blown glass orb or sphere, blown to look like a traditional marble, embedded with images that reflect the viewer's environment in an infinite spectrum of colors as they walk around to see themselves from all angles.
Koons started working on his Gazing Ball series in 2012 and has shown the work in a series of exhibitions across the world since. In May 2017, Koons's Gazing Ball (turquoise) will be on display at the Whitney Museum of American Art's annual summer exhibition.
Also on view until January 8, 2018, is his Coloring Book sculpture at New York's Lever House; a 21-foot tall stainless steel sculpture that has been gilded in 24-carat gold leaf, colored with 1,000 paint hues and adorned with 8-foot figurines. Inspired by the pages of a coloring book, it features Koons's signature balloon dogs and hearts made from antique ceramic shards.
The work is an update on his 1968 Coloring Book, a lithographic sketchbook of ball-like floating shapes and cartoonish characters that also appear in his 2013 installation at the Château de Versailles. In addition to his exhibitions, Koons has made a number of television appearances including an interview with Charlie Rose.
It has shown how Koons's artworks reference the past by creating hand-blown glass spheres and using marble, which is not only a traditional sculptural material but also one that signifies authority. It showed how he combines painting, sculpture, and architecture in order to multiply sensory experience as well as showing his philosophical ideas. Thus we can see why his art has been very popular.