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Neo-Geo

Neo-Geo Collage

Started: 1980

Ended: 1990

"I believe in advertisement and media completely. My art and my personal life are based in it. The art world would probably be a tremendous reservoir for everybody involved in advertising."

Jeff Koons

Summary of Neo-Geo

Neo-Geo was for a time the "next big thing" in the art world of the late 1980s, a loose group of artists seemingly engaged in a critique of consumerism, commercialization, and the regulation of space through abstract aesthetics. Drawing on lessons learned from earlier forms of modernist artistic practice and influenced by European philosophy, artists deployed abstract forms to critique late 20th century Western civilization. Their work commented on increased levels of social isolation within society, the veneration of consumer goods, and the simulation of experience at the expense of the real. Perhaps ironically though, many of the artists went on to be hugely successful commodities in the art market, leading some critics to suggest that the movement was driven more by marketing and publicity hype than genuine social consciousness.

The movement's name derives from Neo-Geometric Conceptualism, but both critics and artists struggled to agree on a name for the group. "Post-Conceptualism", "Simulationism" and "Post-Abstract Abstraction" were alternatives used by various curators, artists, and writers, but all speak to the idea of an art movement devoted to the repurposing of already existing aesthetic languages to engage (mostly implicitly) with contemporary concerns about consumer culture and wider society.

Key Ideas

Neo-Geo combines the aesthetics of earlier abstract art forms like Pop Art, Op Art and Minimalism with concepts derived from continental philosophy. Most notably this included the work of Jean Baudrillard, whose idea that desires are constructed rather than natural was particularly influential in relation to the critique of consumer culture.
Artists also drew heavily on Baudrillard's concept of the simulacrum, or the copy of a copy. Referring to the sense that reproductions rule the everyday, from brand logos to mass-produced items, Neo-Geo artists played with notions of authenticity in relation to it by, for example, presenting mass-produced objects as one-of-a-kind art objects. Rather than doing so to shock or trouble the notion of what art is, this was intended to simply reflect the reality already around the audience.
This distinguishes Neo-Geo from previous artistic movements. After Dada and Pop, the reproduction of these objects was simply exemplary of their ubiquity, as it was no longer shocking to bourgeois sensibilities to use readymades in artistic practice. In an almost cynical manner, it suggested that both the art world and the real world were now predicated on the reproduction of the same objects, only able to be recombined to create new meaning.
Unlike much of the more formally distinct work from the East Village scene of the 1980s (which many Neo-Geo artists had early ties to) these paintings and objects were able to be taken up as commodities by the art market with relative ease and several artists achieved rapid fame. This led to accusations from some critics that the subversive quality of critique implicit in their work had been lost. Several suggested that the masterful publicity campaign attached to the artists reflected an art world too ready to seize new work as the next major movement.
Neo-Geo Image

Jeff Koons, known as "the Warhol of his time", is the best known of the loose collective of artists who invented Neo-Geo. It was his baseballs suspended in a water-filled tank - a work that took scientific precision to produce - that launched his career and the movement.

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