Sunday, September 25, 2011

de Kooning Retrospective At MOMA: Between Abstraction And Figuration

"de Kooning: A Retrospective" at the Museum of Modern Art, NYC, is a comprehensive exhibition spanning Willem de Kooning’s entire career, filled with around 200 pieces that cover the museum's entire sixth floor. Dutch-born de Kooning is one of the major abstract expressionists from the “New York School,” the movement that received international prominence in the 1940s and 1950s, though the artist continued working through the 1980s.

The show amply demonstrates that de Kooning could not simply be defined as an abstract artist. The interplay of the figurative and the abstract is a running theme in his art, as evidenced by “Woman I” (1950-1952) above. de Kooning’s “Woman” series of paintings was controversial because of the very use of the human figure at a time when critics were promoting the abstract. The "Woman" series was also criticized as misogynistic; however one receives them, these paintings retain their raw power decades later.

The exhibit presents decades of an ever-changing career, including his early still lifes and figures composed as an art student; his black-and-white abstractions; the frenetic, slashing paintings he produced living in New York City; the luminous, bright works that followed his move to eastern Long Island; the stripped-down bands of color that he employed in the last phase of his work. "de Kooning: A Retrospective" gives this 20th century artistic giant the broad overview he deserves.

For MOMA's multimedia on the exhibition, click here; for the New York Times review, click here; for the Times' "Seven Eras of Willem de Kooning," including images and audio, click here.

"de Kooning: A Retrospective" continues through January 9, 2012, at the Museum of Modern Art, 11 West 53rd Street, New York, NY, (212) 708-9400.

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