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Margaret Lee

View of “Jeff Koons: A Retrospective,” 2014, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. From left: Moon (Light Pink), 1995–2000; Play-Doh, 1994–2014; Cake, 1995–97. All from the series “Celebration,” 1994–.

I ONLY FALL FOR ART that has that against-all-odds feeling, art that is somehow here despite itself. This feeling is not just about fabrication wizardry or the erasure of the artist’s hand: It means moving past the desire to simply make art. Some artists get off on the act of making, and why shouldn’t they? The desire to make art is not unlike having an interminable itch, but also the ideal scratching stick. That being said, I prefer artists who feel the itch but know better than to scratch. More than any other artist, Jeff Koons gets this restraint. There’s no doubt that, with nearly forty years between the pile of generic colored scrubbers that make up Sponges with Single Double-Sided Floor Mirror, 1978, and the stacked pastel aluminum globs of Play-Doh, 1994–2014, he knows all too well that transcendence is found in deferred gratification.

Margaret Lee is an artist based in New

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