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These activities focus on works of art in the Whitney’s collection and special exhibitions. Through discussion, research, art making, and writing activities, we hope to encourage close looking, foster conversation between students, and connect artwork to classroom learning. Learn about our four artist-centered themes.

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Make a proposal for a sculpture of an ordinary object

Balloon Dog (Yellow), 1994-2001 is ten feet high and weighs a ton. Koons worked with a foundry in California to cast and finish the work’s sixty separate precision-engineered, stainless steel parts. Play-Doh is also ten feet high and made of twenty-seven pieces of painted aluminum, exactly replicating a mound of Play-Doh that his son made. On first glance, both works look deceptively simple, but they represent some of the most complex sculptures Koons has ever made. Koons carefully considered the texture, cracks, and surface detail of his son’s Play-Doh artwork and the intricate, sublte curves and puckers of a real balloon dog. He had both sculptures cast in particular ways to retain the integrity and perfection of the objects themselves, and they took years and specialized technical expertise to fabricate.

With your students, discuss Play-Doh, 1994-2014 and Balloon Dog (Yellow), 1994-2001. Ask students to describe what they noticed about these works during their museum visit. How did Koons capture the spirit of these objects? What does it mean for an artist to spend so many years making something?

a.  Ask students to work in small groups and make a proposal for a sculpture of an ordinary object. Have students challenge themselves to recreate the object as an exact replica of the original, but on a much larger scale. Ask student groups to write their proposal and make sketches of their sculpture. Include a figure for scale.

Ask students to consider:

— What materials they would use.
— What texture the object would have.
— What its scale would be.
— How many parts the object would have.
— How the finished object will look.
— How they would make the object. Describe the process.
— What technique would they use? Casting, carving, modeling, or assembling?
— Would they make the object themselves or have it fabricated by a craftsperson or manufacturer?
— Where they would put it and why?

b. View and discuss student proposals. What object did they propose to recreate? How did they decide which materials to use? How did they propose to make the object?

Jeff Koons, Balloon Dog (Yellow), 1994 – 2000. Mirror-polished stainless steel with transparent color coating; 121 × 143 × 45 in. (307.3 × 363.2 × 114.3 cm). Private collection. © Jeff Koons
Jeff Koons, Play-Doh, 1994–2014. Polychromed aluminum; 120 × 108 × 108 in. (304.8 × 274.3 × 274.3 cm). Bill Bell Collection. © Jeff Koons