PRINT January 1980

Willem de Kooning at the Pittsburgh International

IS DE KOONING “A Nietzsche who has read Wittgenstein,“ or ”a celebrity more and more alienated from his true qualities“? Is painting for him ”a real action, comparable to crossing an ocean“? Is his art ”a Soutine repainted by Mondrian,” “a painted Der Ring des Nibelungen,” or a ”self-evident“ combination of ”the great plastic and painterly traditions of Western painting with Late Cubist syntax"? The effect of such criticism is to hide Willem de Kooning’s art beneath a mass of literary ideas. Can we still see his pictures?

Pre-1975 de Koonings tend to come in two formats, tall rectangles for human figures and wide rectangles for landscapes or interiors (exceptions to this rule tend to be less successful work). Tall rectangles provide natural images for female bodies, a space de Kooning can hollow out in vertical, frontally oriented symmetrical compositions. Does he attack these women, or

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