VIDEO: Jeff Koons's Split-Rocker Rocks Rockefeller Center
Jeff Koons is back at Rockefeller Center. On the exact spot where his beloved Puppy (1992) sat in the Midtown Manhattan plaza 14 years ago, now a similarly flower-covered colossus depicting two toy heads halved and spliced, Split-Rocker (2000), stands 37 feet tall. The colorful, playful, and gently off-kilter sculpture's installation, a Public Art Fund project, coincides with Koons's career retrospective at the Whitney Museum, which opens June 27. While Puppy and Split-Rocker's materials may be similar, Koons sees the newer piece as a very different beast.
“Split-Rocker is different from Puppy in that it's a shelter, it's inviting," Koons said at a press conference on Wednesday. “You could literally take shelter there."
During Wednesday's preview, attendees did, in fact, take shelter inside the sculpture (though the general public will not be allowed to do so). Where its two halves meet—on the left it has the head of a toy rocking horse that belonged to one of the artist's sons, and on the right is the head of a toy dinosaur—the ill-aligned shapes create an opening. Inside the work is all hoses, pumps, and beams, with an internal irrigation system feeding all 50,000 of the flowers dotting the sculpture's exterior surface. It's something like the inside of the Statue of Liberty would be, if it had its own cooling mechanism.
For Koons, Split-Rocker's frailty, its dependence on a sophisticated watering rig, is an essential part of its meaning. Beneath its vaguely Frankensteinian childlike imagery of grafted toy heads, he says considers the flowers to be symbols of life and death, harbingers of a mortality kept at bay, for a few months, by a concealed system of feeding tube–like hoses.
“I think the reason people like them [Puppy and Split-Rocker]," he said, “is because they deal with issues of control."