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Willem de Kooning, Woman, 1953–54, oil on paperboard, 35 3/4 × 24 3/8". From “From Ancient to Modern: Archaeology and Aesthetics.” © The Willem de Kooning Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

“From Ancient to Modern: Archaeology and Aesthetics”

Institute for the Study of the Ancient World

Willem de Kooning, Woman, 1953–54, oil on paperboard, 35 3/4 × 24 3/8". From “From Ancient to Modern: Archaeology and Aesthetics.” © The Willem de Kooning Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

“There is a train track in the history of art that goes way back to Mesopotamia,” Willem de Kooning once said. “Duchamp is on it. Cézanne is on it. Picasso and the Cubists are on it; Giacometti, Mondrian and so many, many more,” including, one might add, the organizers of this small, studious, remarkably concise exhibition at New York University’s Institute for the Study of the Ancient World. “From Ancient to Modern: Archaeology and Aesthetics” took that train running the opposite way, following archaeological objects from Mesopotamia to the present day. The show featured two lush, powerful, lesser-known paintings from de Kooning’s fabled “Woman” series—the toothy, yellow-tinged Woman, 1953–54, and Woman on a Sign II, 1967, gooey, fleshy, sinister, and salmon pink—and placed them in a novel context. Here, they had little to say about de Kooning’s dramatic oscillations

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