NARRATOR: In these works, which Koons later termed the Pre-New, Koons mounted objects such as vacuum cleaners, toasters, and tea kettles on bright fluorescent lights. They seem a bit alien as a result, a fact that encourages us to focus on their forms rather than their functions.
Koons’s careful attention to display—something that remains important throughout his career—stems in part from his childhood.
JEFFKOONS: My father, Henry Koons, was a decorator. And so I grew up being in my father’s showroom. Understanding, really, very young in life and through our home, too, that different colors, different textures make you feel different sensations. I really learned aesthetics through my father.
NARRATOR: When Koons made his Pre-New sculptures, he also had a day job at the Museum of Modern Art. He made frequent visits to the department of Architecture and Design. There, he became sensitive to the way that everyday objects might resemble works by contemporary painters and sculptors in the museum’s collection. These sculptures play with those associations, evoking works by other artists, such as Dan Flavin’s sculptures with fluorescent lights or Frank Stella’s striped paintings.