22870940 Drawing for New Hoover Convertibles, New Shelton Wet/Dry Doubledecker, 1982
c Jeff Koons.
22870957 The New: Encased Works 1981-1986, Installation, Daniel Weinberg Gallery, Los Angeles, 1987-1988.
Courtesy of Jeff Koons.
Marcel Duchamp, The Bride Stripped Bare by her Bachelors, Even (The Large Glass), 1915-1923
Philadelphia Museum of Art
2004 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York ADAGP, Paris Succession Marcel Duchamp
"I chose the vacuum cleaner because of its anthropomorphic qualities. It is a breathing machine. It also displays both male and female sexuality. It has orifices and phallic attachments. I have always tried to create work which does not alienate any part of my audience."
J. Koons, The Jeff Koons Handbook, New York 1992, p.44.
In 1986, Jeff Koons entitled his exhibition at Daniel Weinberg Gallery in Los Angeles, The New: Encased Works 1981-1986. This show presented everyday objects, in this case vacuum cleaners, and raised them to the level of fine art. This show would signal the artist's initial probing of the boundaries of art, a theme that continues to occupy the artist today as Koons forces viewers to cross preconceived notions and conceptual ideas.
New Hoover Convertibles, New Shelton Wet/Dry Doubledecker, is an important and rare work from The New series. Within this piece, art is presented without any pretense of artifice, as Koons is unconcerned with imitating reality in anyway. Continuing the notion first put forth by Marcel Duchamp, New Hoover Convertibles, New Shelton Wet/Dry Doubledecker is clearly an art work based on ideas. Reminiscent of Duchamp's revolutionary piece, The Bride Stripped Bare by her Bachelors, Even (The Large Glass), 1915-1923, both works imbued sexual energy, encased and presented as a modern day shrine. In Duchamp's work, the bride is hanging in an isolated cage in the upper part of the piece, forever separated from her bachelors. The bachelors are relegated to the lower glass panel, caught in a vicious cycle of churning the machine.
From The Bride Stripped Bare by her Bachelors, Even (The Large Glass), Duchamp moved on to conceptualize and develop the idea of the ready-made and Koons has continued and further developed this tradition. Within New Hoover Convertibles, New Shelton Wet/Dry Doubledecker the androgyny of some of the other works in the series has been replaced with a more distinct sense of the sex of these works. The rounded, more sensual feminine form resides on the upper level and is seperated from the more phallic forms below by a horizontal fluorescent light. The more feminine form is the rounded vacuum which resides on the upper level.
Yet the poetry of the piece lies in its subtle examination of immortality. The newness of the vacuums is on display, should these pieces be kept incased and unused, they will last forever. New Hoover Convertibles, New Shelton Wet/Dry Doubledecker represents the ultimate and ideal sense of newness. Once the piece is used, the purity and virginity of the piece is lost and the piece becomes mortal. In a recent interview Koons had this to say about his early vacuum cleaner pieces, "They are ultimate states of being; it is about being new, eternally new. I confront the viewer with objects that are in a position to present themselves as being immortal. They will remain new forever. What's important is that they maintain their integrity by not participating. It is different for the individual; to display integrity they have to participate. It is completely opposite for these objects." (Jeff Koons in Jeff Koons, Naples 2003, p.141) Koons' concentration on the goods and styles of mass culture is so obsessive that it has the appearance of fetishism. The vacuum cleaners glow in an ethereal, iridescent light. Fetishism is a term that has both religious and sexual meanings, and here the objects Koons uses are endowed with both characteristics.
In their celebrated essay on the culture-industry, Horkheimer and Adorno wrote: "The idolization of the cheap involves making the average heroic with the cheapness of mass-produced luxury goods. A change in the character of the art commodity itself is coming about. What is new is not that it is a commodity, but that today it deliberately admits it is one; that art renounces its own autonomy and proudly takes its place among consumption goods constitutes the charm of novelty." (M. Horkheimer and T. Adorno, The Dialectic of Enlightenment, English ed., New York 1972, p.140).
New Hoover Convertibles, New Shelton Wet/Dry Doubledecker is a modern day shrine, a tribute to mass culture and consumerism. Operating along the paths first blazed by Duchamp, Koons continues to provoke questions and challenge expectations in an era all but incapable of aesthetic surprise.