Watery Pinnacle

The best works in the De Kooning show, perhaps the height of his career, were in the second last room, centered around the piece illustrated here. Words like magnificent come to mind. The orchestration of color and of the scale of the brushstrokes, the achieved unity of color and line—one could say gestures that paint, draw, color and compose all at once—not to mention the virtuoso manipulation of amounts of paint of varying dryness, fluidity and texture or the folding in and out of space—these pictures annihilated all my reservations about painterly painting, and I’m still, five days later, feeling them deeply.

Willem De Kooning, Whose name was writ in water 1975

When I went to this show I had no expectations, in fact I did it almost out of a sense of duty since I don’t really like De Kooning’s work, but that’s all changed now. This group of large scale masterpieces (in the true sense of the word)…what’s to say? Richard Shiff singled them out in his book, and I think he was right to do so, although he couldn’t have seen the show at that time. The small piece in the Yale University gallery that I chose for an earlier post is part of the group, and like that one they all appear to have implied grids. But then that can be beautiful too.

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