2014.February.1, 1:58pm
Filed under: 2014.JANUARY, GICKERS | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Sometimes I’m happiest when I change my mind. I treated everyday driving like a sport when I was a teenager, I didn’t like spinach or asparagus until my 30s, and I only recently admitted to myself that I enjoy listening to U2. I suppose it’s just maturing, but I like to think of it as a willful broadening of the mind. I try to suspend judgment and see things more objectively.

Willem de Kooning, Woman, 1965

Willem de Kooning, Woman, 1965

Like responsible driving and vegetables, Willem de Kooning somehow got filed under “dull establishment drivel” when I first saw images of his work. It’s hard to imagine the me that overlooked his paintings as an art major. There was a bit of a spark when I saw slides of de Kooning’s Woman series, but I let it die out. I found Jackson Pollock edgier, and I preferred the contemporary scenery in Francis Bacon’s paintings to de Kooning’s experiments melding the figural with the abstract.

Willem de Kooning, Woman, 1964

Willem de Kooning, Woman, 1964

Last summer’s trip to the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, DC confirmed the folly of my youth.  I now know that de Kooning could have painted as realistically as he wanted, and I don’t see his work as sloppy or contrived, which I guess is what I thought when I first encountered them. Now when pigment hits substrate, I appreciate a painting about pigment hitting substrate.

I like painters who balance the physical aspects of placing pigment on substrate with allusions to form we see in the everyday world. I enjoy finding the fulcrum, and I respect artists whose work makes me question where the fulcrum lies.

Willem de Kooning, Woman, 1964

Willem de Kooning, Woman, 1964

Willem de Kooning’s Woman Series does this for me, and seeing several pieces in the same gallery at the Hirshhorn challenged me to compare my idea of form vs abstraction to his. We can’t all visit Washington, DC when we want to, but looking at these pictures took me back to my experience there. I wonder what de Kooning saw when he finished these paintings, and how it relates to what we see now. This series has been called angry, elegant, playful, intellectual – even misogynistic.

What do you see when you look at these images?

1 Comment so far
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flesh, struggle, queasiness, exposure, figure, fantasy. I like your posing of the question of finding a fulcrum. It is refreshing and exciting to be prodded into thinking about that balance in my own work too. Thank you

Comment by donegallizdoyle

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