de Kooning: A Retrospective at the MoMA

De Kooning's NYC Woman Artwork

The MoMA unveils the first big NYC museum show of the season, and it's a doozy. de Kooning: A Retrospective, now at the Museum of Modern Art, is a huge exhibition, taking up the MoMA's entire sixth floor with almost 200 of de Kooning's paintings, as well as some prints, drawings and sculptures. As the show's title suggest, de Kooning: A Retrospective, a current exhibition at the MoMA spans the artist's entire career, from his earliest still life paintings from the late 19-teens and 1920s all the way through the many directions Willem de Kooning pushed his art, in its themes, methods and materials, and finally winding down, in the last gallery, with his final works, spare and bright.


Willem de Kooning's Seated Man artwork

We went to the Museum of Modern Art's de Kooning: A Retrospective a few days after it opened, and will probably return a couple more times through the fall and winter to fully take it all in. This is a blockbuster show in the best sense of word–large-scale, energizing, eye-opening, crowd-pleasing–and the first four or five galleries are so packed with pleasures that we'll probably walk through in reverse chronological order the next time, in order to give de Kooning's later pieces, which we found to be much less wonderful than everything in the exhibition's first half, a more fair, fresh-eye appraisal. 

de Kooning's Father, Mother, Sister, Brother - 1937

Anyway, some favorites: We loved de Kooning's Father, Mother, Sister, Brother, from 1937, above, for its bold, organic shapes. Seated Man (two above) and Seated Woman, from 1939 and 1940, open the MoMA's de Kooning retrospective in spectacular fashion: they are the first two pieces you see upon entering, and, as Jerry Salz said so well in New York Magazine, they immediately set up for you "the harrowing spatial-painterly struggle that plays out in all of the galleries to follow." Willem de Kooning's black-and-white work from the late 1940s, including Painting, below, are marvelously jarring amid all that color. 

de Kooning's Painting, from the late 1940

Willem de Kooning's Pink Angels, 1945

And then there are the masterpieces at the MoMA's Willem de Kooning retrospective, like Pink Angels, above, painted in 1945, and in which his figures have completed exploded; and Excavation, below, which de Kooning worked on for months and months, adding more and more layers which we are invited to explore and try to, well…. excavate, much to our delight. And then there is de Kooning's brilliant Woman series, six spectacular paintings (including Woman I, at top) that are all both beautiful and grotesque. This was our favorite wall in the entire MoMA's de Kooning exhibition, and (almost) worth the museum's new $25 admission price alone.  

de Kooning: A Retrospective - the Museum of Modern Art

de Kooning: A Retrospective, at the MoMA details

de Kooning: A Retrospective will be at the Museum of Modern Art from now through January 9, 2012. The MoMA is located on 53rd Street between Sixth and Fifth Avenues, and is open Monday, Wednesday Thursday, Saturday and Sunday from 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and on Friday until 8:00 p.m., when admission is free after 4:00 p.m. Closed Tuesdays. For lots more information about everything, please the MoMA's website, here.

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