De Kooning's Fractured Genius

By Gopnik, Blake | Newsweek, September 5, 2011 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

De Kooning's Fractured Genius

Gopnik, Blake, Newsweek

Byline: Blake Gopnik

A blockbuster new show explores the great painter's messy reality.

We are at a moment in art when "isms" are dead, when instinct trumps theory, when abstraction and figuration live happily together, when variety is better than a single style, and when political incorrectness rules.

We are at the perfect moment, that is, to revisit Willem de Kooning, the great American painter who died in 1997, at 92, and whose work pre-figured our current trends. On Sept. 18, the Museum of Modern Art in New York is launching the first all-media de Kooning retrospective. All 17,000 square feet of the museum's sixth floor will be devoted to it.

De Kooning is one of our most famous artists. We've heard about his drinking and womanizing. Since 1974, we've noted his pictures' record prices. And we've read plenty on his decline into dementia in the 1980s, and the paintings he kept making despite it. But we still don't know what to do with his art. "The range of talent and innovation in de Kooning is similar to that of Cezanne," said Richard Shiff, a great Cezanne scholar who is publishing a new book on de Kooning. John Elderfield, the MoMA show's curator, writes that his painter embraces "difficulty, resistance, and ambiguity."

De Kooning is often billed more simply than that, as Jackson Pollock's chief rival in abstract expressionism, although de Kooning himself disliked the "-ism.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

De Kooning's Fractured Genius


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?