Jeff Koons Crosses a Horse with a Dinosaur and Makes Art, in Many Forms

What happens when a toy rocking horse meets a toy rocking dinosaur meets Pop provocateur Jeff Koons? Split Rocker. First conceived of in the late 1990s, Split Rocker is a sculpture composed of half of the rocking horse’s head and half of the rocking dinosaur’s head, both split down the center and not quite conjoined into a single hybrid head, with a partially open seam where they meet. At once adorable and strange, this piece has gone through many iterations over the past decade-plus, and can now be brought home as a luxurious plate or vase thanks to the artist’s recent collaboration with the illustrious French porcelain manufacturer, Bernardaud.

The roots of this particular transformation of the everyday into art lie in the rocking horse of Koons’s own son. As he explains, “My son happened to have this rocking horse and when I was working on [the painting Shelter (1996-98)] I thought I needed something for scale in the background, so I used that. Then I remembered another rocker that I had found, which was a dinosaur. So…I’d think it would be great just to cut them down the center and put them together... So I finally did it.”

Sculptures followed. First came a suite of small, multicolored works, created in 1999, in which, for example, the horse’s head would be orange while the dinosaur’s would be red. Though they were made of polychrome aluminum, these sculptures appeared to be plastic, with the split emphasized by their contrasting colors. This suited Koons, who claims that, for him, the greatest point of tension and possibility in the piece lies in the split itself: “What I was really interested in was the split, where there actually isn’t any form, that interface where the overlap occurs...Because of this division of two split profiles being brought together, there is this idea of a continued sense of division and union.”

Since bigger is better, or so our commercial culture—Koons’s fodder—tells us, Split Rocker was eventually blown up into a monumental planter, covered with a living pelt of grass and flowers. An image of its installation at Versailles graces the front of the generously sized plate by Bernardaud, while the pristine white vase, with room for a lush bouquet, continues the floral theme. Both of these limited-edition pieces, in all their edgy cuteness, are available through Baker Sponder Gallery.

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