'Flesh was the reason oil paint was invented'
September 28, 2011 12:00 AM   Subscribe

There is currently a far reaching retrospective at the MOMA in New York on painter Willem de Kooning, that most deeply European of the Abstract Expressionists who drew the international art world's attention to New York back in the post war years. He's most famous as the creator of one of the few paintings of the 20th century that stills retains the ability to shock. But, as this quite interesting MOMA website shows, there was a lot more to his enterprise than most people realize. My first post here by the way.
posted by Phlegmco(tm) (19 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
I am generally ignorant of the history and terminology of the art world (and thus consume art by a visceral rather than intellectual method), but I'll have a go nevertheless.

Abstractions of the physical world (color, shape, dimensions, continuity) peel free and expose the heuristics of consciousness by confusing their functions; altering the normality of input and thereby breaking the interpretive processies. The mind is forced to make sense of the chaotic familiarity of (for example) faces among a sea of limbs and teeth, shapes upon shapes, and arrives at error -- forcing a metacognitive analysis.

I so love such things, and I thank you for this stimulating post (and not a wikipedia link within!). You show great potential.

We are virgins together, for this is my first drunken contribution; I hope I have not made a fool of myself.
posted by troll at 12:49 AM on September 28, 2011 [4 favorites]

Holy shit. I happen to be in NYC next month. Great background to the visit, thank you.
posted by Samuel Farrow at 2:02 AM on September 28, 2011

"Perhaps I am more of a novelist than a poet." - Willem de Kooning
posted by three blind mice at 2:07 AM on September 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Shaping de Kooning’s Legacy: Behind the scenes of the artist’s long-awaited retrospective at MoMA are not only curators but also dealers, lawyers, collectors, and heirs.
posted by R. Mutt at 4:30 AM on September 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

Man, I'd love to see this retrospective. I was hooked on de Kooning the first time I ever saw one of his canvases.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:35 AM on September 28, 2011

Tasty, illuminating post. Nice work!
posted by halfbuckaroo at 5:18 AM on September 28, 2011

De Koonings work from the 1950s is really important, how he transfered the tradition of dutch landscape painting to long island, the erasure and building up of Excavation, the terrible beauty of his women which combine playboy cartoons, Freudian fear of women, and an all consuming eroticism into perfect canvases of alienation. Having the drawings, and most of the women paintings together in one space is fantastic.

But this show is the culmination of 20 years of market lead critical re-evaluation of his later work, and his later work isn't good. It seems unethical to keep pretending that he made anything significant after the early 60s, when the drinking took over, and the dementia took over the drinking--he wasn't painting these (and not in a Warhol Death of the Author kind of way, in the I am too pissed to hold a paintbrush kind of way), and his sense left him. The market demands new markets, and since the early de Koonings are becoming so over priced, then the later De Koonings are being treated by museums and galleries as works worthwhile seeing.

It kind of makes me sad or angry.
posted by PinkMoose at 5:49 AM on September 28, 2011

his later work isn't good.

Market questions aside, I completely & politely disagree with you about the later work. They are loose, airy and wonderful.
posted by R. Mutt at 5:57 AM on September 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

We can't put market questions aside. It's what is determining re-evaulation at all, and it is what made this this happen. Loose and airy seem to be euphemisms for an inability to build up visual discourse like the previous work.
posted by PinkMoose at 6:03 AM on September 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

We can't put market questions aside.

I just did.
posted by R. Mutt at 6:06 AM on September 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

To me (and I'm male), de Kooning's paintings of women are repellent. The "shocking" painting (Woman 1949) is so full of hatred that it turns my stomach. De Kooning is very skillful, and each painting speaks a wretched man I'd go out of my way not to know.

By the way, Picasso was worse.
posted by KRS at 6:20 AM on September 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

The reason why this exhibition exists, and the reason we are talking about it, is the campaign by De Koonings child. We wouldn't be talking about it, if it weren't for the market.
posted by PinkMoose at 6:20 AM on September 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


There was a great PBS documentary about him a few years ago, when he is shown to have Dedeni cartoons clipped from playboy on his easel--that was a key to understanding the woman seires for me. They are horrific, and misogynist, and about the basic terror that some men have about some women, and about the fear of the erotic, but i also find them really quite funny.
posted by PinkMoose at 6:25 AM on September 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

(obligatory Erased De Kooning links.)
posted by progosk at 6:36 AM on September 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

I have an appreciation for some of de Kooning's later works, but I think they're a lot easier to love if you imagine they didn't come from the same guy who gave us Montauk Highway.
posted by shakespeherian at 6:45 AM on September 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

There's a nice writeup of the exhibition in the New Yorker (subscription).
posted by Jahaza at 6:49 AM on September 28, 2011

An illegal immigrant, btw.
posted by Trurl at 7:01 AM on September 28, 2011

troll: nicely put. Very well done.
posted by IAmBroom at 7:26 AM on September 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Thanks for posting!

I had to do a presentation in college for an art history class, and chose to speak about DeKooning because one of his paintings was in one of our textbooks and, well, I just liked it. We had a supposedly strict time-limit of 10 minutes, but I ended up going 22 minutes (my neighbor told me when i went back to my seat) and still got an A. For someone like me, and most of my classmates, who didn't know much about painting, explaining his "action painting", in which he'd mix slow-drying solutions of paint so he could work it around the canvas long-after he'd brushed it on, with successive slides showing the evolution of a piece was fascinating.
posted by Lukenlogs at 1:26 PM on September 28, 2011

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