Art Objects Observed: de Kooning

Recently I attended  de Kooning: A Retrospective at the MoMA. This extensive exhibition covers seventeen thousand square feet of de Kooning’s work from seven decades. The exhibition was a long journey through exquisite sensitivity, raw emotion and misogyny; from the jewel-like, biomorphic  Summer Couch to the beautifully grotesque Woman II.  Also on view were works from some of my favorite series- the gestural abstractions, black and white, landscapes  and of course, the women. As I moved through the exhibition, the brushwork became increasingly luscious and aggressive and it sometimes appeared that de Kooning had just walked away from the canvases. When I entered the last gallery, I was unexpectedly overwhelmed by the serenity of the late paintings. Anger and turbulence had dissolved in to subtle, delicate, undulating lines, broad expanses of white, thin, flat layers and glazes. I would like to believe that de Kooning found peace and that it was not just frailty that moved his brush in his end of life work.

Summer Couch, 1943, oil on composition board, 31 1/4x 52". Photo from the web, Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY

Orestes,1947, enamel on paper mounted on plywood, 24 1/8 x 36 1/8". Photo from the web, Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY

Suburb in Havana, 1958, oil on canvas, 68x70". Photo from the web, Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY

Woman II, 1950-52, 6' 37/8 x 58" , oil on canvas. Photo from the web, Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY

(no title) 1984, 77x88", oil on canvas. Photo from the web, Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY

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