Advertise | Newsletter | About/Subscribe | Submissions | Art Walk | Books | THE2NDHAND Writers Fund

**CURRENT PRINT: THE PEOPLE!: "All viz" are the watchwords for our 26th broadsheet, featuring a print by Birmingham's Charles Buchanan, comics by longtime Antipurpose Driven Lifer Andrew Davis. It's all tied together by the Sandburg-inspired illustrations by our resident, Rob Funderburk.

**WEB: JEFF AND JEFF KOONS Raul Bloodworth
SHOW ME Lauren Pretnar

Raul Bloodworth

I met Jeff when I first arrived to New York. At the time, I had been reading an article about Jeff Koons in the New Yorker. Jeff and Jeff Koons look a bit alike. They both have "unfinished features that are distinctly American," though Jeff has a deeper brow than Jeff Koons, making him look slightly more unfinished, more Cro-Magnon than Jeff Koons.

I spent a whole weekend masturbating to Jeff and Jeff Koons -- I couldn't tell which after awhile. In my rushed, overheated brain, I was thinking "unfinished American features" and "Cro-Magnon." It was hot in my third-floor studio. I had no air-conditioning. It was only my second week in New York.

DecomP Magazine

Jeff was my second high-school crush. We spent our formative years in Kansas, and he stayed behind while I ended up moving away to Chicago for college. He ended up in New York because he was chasing a much younger girlfriend here. She began dating someone else as soon as she'd gotten here. He was alone, the summer of '05, in an empty room in New York with no girlfriend or friends. There was a heat wave that summer, and he found himself sweating in his top-floor apartment, generally feeling like he was going to die. He described this scene to me more than once.

Nowadays, Jeff is a teaching assistant at a public college, philosophy wing. He specializes in aesthetics.

Jeff doesn't say lovely, romantic things like Jeff Koons does. "I've always wanted the viewer to feel a sense of security in the work -- a kind of spiritual trust in that image or object," says Jeff Koons.

"What do you think it means," I asked him, "that I love everything that Jeff Koons says, but I feel nothing for his sculptures?"

Before I ever got romantically involved with Jeff, we were friends. I had always wanted a friend I could talk to about art and books. Through the course of our conversations on these matters, like awkward hugs, it came to be known that Jeff hated Jeff Koons.

"Jeff Koons," said Jeff, "exhibits what Kant would call the mathematically sublime. The dynamic sublime differs from the mathematically sublime in that it gives the impression that one's life as a finite creature could be put in danger by the immensity of the art object. Its impossible-to-comprehend dimensions bowl one over, turning day into night, night into day, and one is left unable to breathe and trembling with fear."

I didn't like this. It was as if he was saying that I was troubled by Jeff Koons' sculptures simply because some of them are big.

Instead I said this: "Koons seems to say that by basing his sculptures on ordinary objects, he's celebrating these objects and taking away our shame of certain aesthetic enjoyments. But by reworking them in another medium and blowing them up, he exoticizes and fetishizes them so that they seem alien."

Jeff, the aesthetics philosophy scholar, was not convinced. I drank my iced coffee and pressed on.

"When I look at something like Puppy or Rabbit, what actually disturbs me is the impenetrability of the sculpture. It seems to know everything about me and I nothing of it. It's a sculpture made in imitation of a mass-produced object that was formed with little purpose to begin with, but I don't see that it elevates the original object itself. Somewhere in the process, the sculpture has become its own entity, and because of that break, I can't find a point of access." I paused for breath, then the rest of the thought slinked down as if on a descending staircase, like Gerhard Richter's Woman Descending the Staircase. "Which is why Jeff Koons' sculptures scare me."

Besides reminding me of Jeff Koons, Jeff was a friend of my high school crush Tom. They worked at the same coffeeshop, at the only coffeeshop in town. Tom looked up to Jeff, a father figure he could never live up to, though Jeff is only a year older than us. One night, Jeff slept with Tom's girlfriend during her first year in college. Two times removed is close enough for me.

Tom has never gone to college. He never graduated high school. The last time I saw Tom was outside the coffeeshop he worked at. He had a sketchpad out, on which he was drawing faces. I wanted mine to be one of them, and I wanted his drawing of me to look exactly like me. Slowly I pulled my car out of the strip mall parking lot and headed into the Kansas roads.

Jeff and I sit on the rocks of the East River shore. The lights of the Williamsburg Bridge shine above us as dusk approaches. It is a Sunday. Tomorrow we have to work again. "You have the overactive imagination of someone who's been lonely for a very long time," Jeff says.

"I am lonely," I say. I feel no shame in saying it. "I have been for a very long time." Then I look at him. "What are you going to do about it?"

On the night of my birthday -- I was turning 24 -- I slept with Jeff.

What I didn't know when I was 23 and figured out after I turned 24 was that just because a man gives you a name by the side of a river, and tells you what you are, and it happens to be true at the moment, it doesn't mean you're beholden to him or actually what he says you are. It doesn't mean that you're beholden to being lonely indefinitely.

Jeff was gentle and reassuring in bed. He could fuck you gently with a chain saw and you'd believe it. But he was cruel in life. His cruelties were very sudden and slight, like little pinpricks. They were calculated in timing and calibrated in effect.

The last time we saw each other, we were at a bar, and he made the terms clear. I was going back to my awful, boring life in an oppressive studio. He was moving to a new apartment to live with and pursue his best friend's soon-to-be ex-girlfriend.

It was a very stilted, slow conversation, almost banal. It ended with this: "It'll be so hot in your apartment," he remarked. He wanted to be a writer, so I instinctively understood this attempt at creating a parallel narrative between us. It's true, I was new to New York, and I did live in a top-floor apartment, and I didn't have an air conditioner. But those similarities did not mean our stories were the same. I am not Jeff Knotts.

He wanted to place me in his position years ago, living in a top-floor apartment alone, abandoned by a lover in a heat wave. He'll shut the door before he leaves. Looking back, this is how he will think of me, sweating alone in a sticky room.

I looked into Jeff's eyes, and when I couldn't find a point of access I looked at the spot between his eyes. Somewhere in the process Jeff became something outside my memory, where he even goes by his middle name, and there's no connection between this Jeff and the one I knew years ago. Jeff Knotts has to leave me in order to leave himself. It scared me.

I went back to my hot apartment that day. It was dusk, it was five or six o'clock on a Saturday. I consoled myself with Jeff Koons. At the end of the New Yorker article, the journalist touches on Jeff Koons' latest yet-to-be-completed sculptural undertaking, an enormous simulacra of a train hung vertically from a crane outside the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The sculpture was be made to the exact dimensions of a real train. It would also have a powerful sound chip that simulated the sound of a train every hour on the hour, its whistles and gears.

"One of the main things will be to get right under the train, so you get a sense of the power of that engine," Jeff Koons says. "This will not be an amusement-park spectacle - it will be a visceral, realistic experience."

I fell asleep on the Sunday of my sixth week in New York dreaming of neither Jeff nor Jeff Koons.

Outside my window, the subway trains clang and roar. I begin each day taking the train to work. I end each day taking the train back. I live in New York. I wish I could say that it feels very visceral and real.

This story references Calvin Tomkins' profile of Jeff Koons, "The Turnaround Artist," which was published in The New Yorker in the April 23, 2007 issue.