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Jeff Koons on Play-Doh, 1994–2014

Oct 16, 2014

Jeff Koons discusses the inspiration for his work Play-Doh, included in Jeff Koons a Retrospective (June 27–October 19, 2014).

Jeff Koons: The inspiration really came from one of my children, from my son Ludwig. And I brought him some Play-Doh, and he made a mound of Play-Doh, and he said “Dad!” and I turned, “what?” and he went “voila!” in front of this mount of Play-Doh. And he was so proud. And I looked at it, and I thought you know this is really what I try to do every day as an artist, to make objects that you can’t make any judgments about. That it’s perfect, that you just experience acceptance.

 The way Play-Doh is created, you know—it’s a mound of Play-Doh, it’s just like you would take your blue that’s on the bottom and lay it down and take the red and put it on top. It’s mounded on top of each other like this. And if you take Play-Doh apart, they’re organic shapes that all stack on top of each other. So that these surfaces are meeting on the inside. And you never see that, the public doesn’t see it, but I think that you feel it. And it has a kind of Freudian quality to it. 

I really thought that Play-Doh captures the twentieth century. And you have this aspect of Freud, with this kind of mound of Play-Doh and the way that the organic shapes are on top of each other. And within art, you have this kind of Abstract Expressionism, you have this kind of aspect of de Kooning or something. But it just seems to throw a net and to capture the twentieth century.