Late Nights at the Whitney
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On July 19, Family Programs welcomed more than 1,000 participants to a special Jeff Koons Family Opening. On each floor of the Jeff Koons: A Retrospective exhibition, families responded to the artist’s work through close observation, discussion, and art making.
On the fourth floor, children and adults had the rare opportunity to touch samples of Koons’s large-scale sculptures provided by the artist’s studio. Kids compared one material to another, contrasting the texture of a real balloon to a portion of the stainless steel Balloon Dog (Yellow) (1994-2000). These touch objects also constructed a framework for deeper understanding of Koons’s work. Once they hadtouched the bronze, granite, aluminum, and stainless steel samples children were able to guess the materials of Koons’s sculptures in other galleries.
Other qualities of Koons’s works, however, were more difficult to discern. Pauline Noyes, Coordinator of School and Educator Programs, led a discussion that showed families the ancient sculpture on which Balloon Venus (Orange) (2008-2012) was based―the Venus of Willendorf from 28,000 to 25,000 BCE. The biggest surprise she revealed was about Koons’s process. Certain that this sculpture was fantastical, families were surprised to discover that this artwork was produced using a CT scan of a real single-balloon sculpture made by an expert balloon artist. Children had fun guessing where the balloon sculpture began and ended and counted how many times they could see their reflections in its surfaces.
Each activity addressed audiences of different ages. In the Lower Gallery, families considered advertisements that had inspired Koons as well as his methods in collage painting, while young children participated in an activity related to Koons’s Equilibrium sculptures, placing golf, foam, and inflatable balls in tanks of water to determine what would float or sink. Older children discussed equilibrium on the second floor, hypothesizing about the levels of salt and regular water required to enable the basketball to float.
By Julia Pastor, Interpretation Intern