Art Hash: Art, Blended
Autumn in New York City never felt hotter than when I was there this past September. After a late two latte-breakfast in the West Village–where I was firmly and happily ensconced for a week–I decided there was no time like the present for a visit to my favorite air-conditioned haunt: MoMA. Not to mention, there was a de Kooning show on and with it being a weekday, I hoped to avoid the inevitable crowds. I found my cool respite, AND a preternaturally crowded exhibit hall. I valiantly pressed on.
I’ve always like de Kooning–but, admittedly, most readily associated him with a very limited period of his work: the Woman series from 1950-1953, and the precursor images of 1949. The MoMA retrospective forced me, gently, to think about his work in new ways, to see the nuances and the passage of time on his interpretation of color, line, and form, and to feel a connection to the artist that I hadn’t expected. There’s a certain harmony and soothing quality to his latter year pieces (Untitled XXIII-1982, and Untitled XIII-1985, for example) –quite unexpected when you know his more jarring and kinetic paintings such as Woman I(1950-1952). His shift to a gentler and more sparsely worked style is often attributed to his failing health–both a long struggle with alcoholism and the onset of dementia.
A reluctant standard-bearer for the Abstract Expressionist movement, de Kooning’s work defies strict lines of classification–and he liked it that way. He eschewed labels (as do many artists), preferring to work as inspired. This particular retrospective, taking over the whole of MoMA’s sixth-floor exhibition space, brought together over 200 works–from both public and private collections–spanning every single nuance of the artist’s work. It hit all the notes and led me on a journey through time and space–and one man’s emotional struggles, the ups and downs of a life exposed, often rawly, on canvas and in bronze.
I’m not sure if I’ve seen an exhibit more fulfilling than this one.; unfortunately, the show ended January 9th, 2012–luckily, MoMA’s related publication is on sale at www.momastore.org.