At once dominant and liberating, the work of Dutch-American artist Willem de Kooning has no equal. A leader and founding member of the Abstract Expressionist movement, de Kooning created art that stemmed from the subconscious, focusing on the spontaneous, often intense, creative process, expressing an untamed energy never before seen, or since equaled.
De Kooning avoided being boxed into a particular movement or style, preferring rather to focus upon the raw emotions and subjective. Upon examination, the artist’s women-centric works truly defy classification, conveying everything from intense passion and eroticism, to aggression and sheer power. Overall, de Kooning’s paintings force the viewer to confront the complexities of women in the modern world through the deconstruction and reinterpretation of the female form.
This groundbreaking ideology is evident in his 1960s masterpiece Two Women. A pivotal precursor to his legendary Clam Diggers series, de Kooning presents a pair of women with forms that melt into the space; their sensual frames simultaneously genuine yet ethereal. This treatment carried on throughout his career and is clearly observed in the artist’s 1979 work Untitled. Boundless, even fierce energy radiates from the canvas, as the female form seemingly takes on a life of its own with every brushstroke. Bringing the figural to the very brink of abstraction, we observe in this Untitled masterwork the womanly silhouette, alluded to via clean, bold blue lines atop a ground of fleshy pink as if to separate the expressive from the physical form.
Often criticized for his “distorted” interpretations of women, de Kooning had stated, “this is all about freedom…flesh was the reason oil paint was invented.” Created in stark contrast to the idealized images of women he observed in popular culture, de Kooning pushed the boundaries of figural painting to create an unparalleled body of work that forever changed the course of modern art.
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