TABLE OF CONTENTS

Josiah McElheny

Jeff Koons, Lifeboat, 1985, bronze, 12 × 80 × 60". From the series “Equilibrium,” 1983–93.

LIFEBOAT

JEFF KOONS is like Alfred Hitchcock. Deeply invested in entertaining us with their personal obsessions, both the filmmaker and the artist have gone to great lengths to produce visual gratification. But underneath such diversions lies an unconscious desire for control—and an ocean of fear, the real subject of their art. Koonsian dread often arrives in sculptures depicting objects in uncanny likeness, transforming recognizably cheap, everyday things into metaphors about anxiety and death. Stuff that should disintegrate, or at least deflate, becomes fixed in time, not unlike the faces of movie stars, crystallized on film.

Koons’s earliest works, from the late 1970s, include industrially produced inflatable toys made of vinyl and other perishables, and so some of their components have had to be carefully remade for his current retrospective. But transience becomes permanence

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