What do Abstract Expressionists do when they get older? Some go figurative, like Phil Guston. Some go POP, like Rauschenberg. Some simply keep on trucking, like Joan Mitchell. Willem de Kooning did something really interesting. He began turned away from human figuration and towards gestural figuration. Untitled V looks at the gestures that were the markers of Abstract Expressionism, but presents them in a way that still feels as if it is working the surface from edge-to-edge and with a grand sweep, but it is so controlled. I know, I know, they all said that their paintings had been controlled all along, but that's bullshit, and they knew it. It is a bit of a turn towards biomorphism, which is where Abstract Expressionists started their journey from.
Some would see these as being referential, like the Brushstrokes by Lichtenstein, as if de Kooning was simply trying to recreate his old glory, but saw himself as going back over his old tracks, so did something cleaner. I can see that argument, but they're wrong. This feels as if de Kooning was finally coming to grips with something: the fact that his works in the 1950s and 60s were about the gesture and not the image they created, and thus, he removed the obvious gesture, tightened down, and gave that composed form he had used in Woman and released himself from it. The result is something far more powerful, and it feels like an artist not looking back so much as an artist re-visiting something he never put out in the first place.
Christopher J Garcia - Curator, Fan Writer, Podcaster, and a guy who just loves art.