From the late 1970’s Koons’s artistic output was profoundly object-based, and his early oeuvre was unmistakeably shaped by his observations while employed at the Museum of Modern Art in New York: “Every day I would go to the collections… study all the Duchamp objects, and I would go to the library and pick up information on Man Ray, on Duchampian ideas and on the Avant-garde period. I wanted to contribute to the idea of the readymade” (Jeff Koons cited in: ibid., p. 13). Indeed, Koons’s earliest works re-appropriate and translate every-day objects into high art, inviting viewers to question the role of the quotidian, the decorative, and the mundane. Such articulations can be found in the series Pre-New and The New (1979-1983) in which Koons employed a vast array of domestic objects – from unused hoovers and toasters to telephones and coffee pots – in a decidedly post-modernist reflection upon how art is consumed within a theatre of twentieth-century mass production. Koons’s contribution to the readymade is further palpable in the present work, for here he has taken a junky miniature ornament and magnified it to grand proportions using skilled artisanal craftsmanship. Koons’s father was a furniture dealer and interior decorator, and thus the artist grew up with an enlightened understanding of middle-class America and its endowment of material goods and décor with their deepest and most personal aspirations. As such, the present work explores this innate sense of human yearning, and veritably represents the aestheticisation of contemporary desire.
While the bold, cartoonish quality of Yorkshire Terriers evokes iconography of the American Pop movement of the 1960s, the work also offers an art historical reference in its allusions to Baroque sculpture and the highly decorative nature of Rococo art. Thus the present sculpture exhibits Koons’s natural predilection for the ornate extravagance of the past, intertwining art historical references with sex, humour, and wit. By re-writing the rules of appropriation, the neo-kitsch nature of Yorkshire Terriers provides a brilliant commentary on consumption, opulence, and material excess; Koons valiantly claims, “I learned to look at the external world and became really enthralled, excited by visual stimulation from everyday items, everyday situations, colours and objects” (Jeff Koons cited in: op. cit., p. 13).
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