The DeKooning exhibition at the MoMA, open until January 9th, is a must see. DeKooning can never be overrated, and the exhibition is superbly curated. Each room is dedicated to a specific period in DeKooning’s development and the exhibition covers the whole span of his career. The progression from room to room, and from period to period, is clear, and the viewer gets a full sense of DeKooning as a visual artist, his search and his focus.
DeKooning’s paintings will never become corny. He is not at all ambiguous or self-indulgent. His paintings betray a crisp and focused search for a specific image. Notice that DeKooning does not vary his subject matter; he works on the same subject over and over again, manipulating various elements – light, color and texture – in pursuit of a specific visual representation. Although his mark making is unique in its fluidity and inquisitiveness, in my view his paintings are not at all about the mark, but about the composite image, about the physicality of light, color and the body.
DeKooning’s paintings are very real. His images are distorted and yet portray a very honest reality. He states that “art should not have to be a certain way.” Among a handful of cutting-edge, experimental artists, DeKooning remained true to himself, true to his diligent, cerebral search. He claimed that “being anti-traditional is just as corny as being traditional.” And he is right. From whatever angle you look at his work, DeKooning is never stale or overplayed and his touch is never an artifice or an accident.
While walking through the exhibition, you will hear a lot of art lovers and connoisseurs comment with excitement about little details in each painting, hypothesizing about his intentions or state of mind. But for me, the experience was the opposite. The more I tried to get close to his paintings and try to psychologize his ‘technique,’ the more I felt inclined to let my act of looking remain purely instinctual and detach myself from analysis, absorbing the unaltered reality of each painting.