de Kooning retrospective in New York

September 14 2011

Image of de Kooning retrospective in New York

Picture: New York Times

A major new exhibition on the career of Willem de Kooning opens at the Museum of Modern Art in New York on 18th Sept. The New York Times has interviewed the curator of the show, John Elderfield (above), who has made wide use of photographs of de Kooning at work. Discussing his later career, when de Kooning was suffering from the onset of dementia, he says:

“People later talked about how de Kooning was not in control of what he was doing, but it was clear from these photographs that he was,” Mr. Elderfield said. “The kind of continuous revision that happened to these pictures has very much de Kooning’s signature to it.”

These late, often haunting canvases — sparer than the sensual and colorfully theatrical work he created when he was at the height of his powers — have often been debated, because it is hard to know how much he painted himself and how much was done by studio assistants.

“When you think of artists today like Damien Hirst and Jeff Koons, who have armies of assistants virtually creating their work, does it really matter?” Mr. Elderfield said. “I don’t think it does. In de Kooning’s case, we know his hand is in all his work.”

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