Willem De Kooning's retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art reunites more than 200 of his paintings, drawings and sculptures for first time in 30 years. Across the 17,000 square-foot of galleries, the viewer is confronted with powerful paintings including De Kooning’s post Picassian colorful portraits as well as his gestural pure abstractions, passing through the acclaimed series of aggressive smiling women.
Although there is a special focus on the grotesque quality paintings of the 40’s and 50’s, the transitional character of De Kooning’s work is notably present all through the exhibition.
Following the footsteps of early Picasso’s treatment of the human figure, his early body of work reveals the progressive fragmentation of body parts and use of bright primary colors that further on would led into pure abstractions.
Engaged in the Abstract Expressionist movement, De Kooning employed his own body as another tool for painting; “Merrit Parkway”, made in the late 50’s exemplifies his strong physical presence in the painting transmitted through energetic brush strokes, while the utilization of warm vivid primary colors and huge touches create a shocking atmosphere of a vigorous gestural character.
As the viewer continues walking through the gallery, he or she can realize how, once free of all figurative elements -which always revolved around the human figure, De Kooning’s paintings suffered a process of aesthetical depuration that led into a series of simple cold curved-shaped paintings. With them, once again, De Kooning achieved new approaches towards the treatment of the pictorial space.