Q & A with Jeff Koons on his new Gagosian show, his MOCA award and what’s behind those Louis Vuitton bags

Jeff Koons is having a moment — again. The artist’s solo show of new and recent works, his first here in five years, opens at Gagosian gallery in Beverly Hills on Thursday. He’s also being honored at the annual Museum of Contemporary Art gala on Saturday.

When I went to art school, I was very involved in subjective art, what I would have dreamed the night before, very personal iconography, this kind of inward investigation. And I reached a point where I learned how to trust in myself. I was living in Chicago. This would have been in the mid-’70s. My mentor, Ed Paschke, told me, ‘Everything is already here, you just have to open yourself up to it.’ And he showed me where he got his source material. We went to tattoo parlors, clubs with reflective curtains and mysterious lighting. And I started this journey of the ready-made and seeing the world around me and incorporating it.

The idea of the ready-made — something pre-existing for usage — kind of always existed. But it’s really about celebrating a vocabulary. If you look at the letters in the alphabet, and all of the sudden there’d be restrictions on those letters, it would really eliminate the world of poetry. It’s the same with the visual world and incorporating the things around us that we’re familiar with. So it’s being able to articulate these familiarities, to be able to create a visual poetry.

 

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