big pictures


As a group, the pictures also summon up more ancient associations. They offer a counterclaim to other allusions to the Venus of Willendorf (Austria, 30,000 B.C.E.) in contemporary art. This tiny statue, with its mute pendant head and protruding belly, breasts and thighs, is thought to be a fertility deity. The sculpture plays a significant role in the quite brilliant opening chapter of Camille Paglia’s (probably deservedly maligned) book, “Sexual Personae”.

Paglia describes this figurine as containing women’s essential power: that of the dark, primitive mysterious forces of procreation and destruction, of instinct and blood, rooted in the earth. Paglia says, “She isthe too-muchness of nature… She is remote as she kills and creates. She is the cloud of archaic night.”

Stubby, oversized confederates of the Venus of Willendorf are a staple of Jeff Koons production; she is embodied in the early Vacuum Cleaners, in the Rabbit, and the Puppy, among other works. By utilizing this sign, Koons argues that commercial culture furnishes society with primordial energy in order that it may be psychically healed.

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