A de-idealization of the human figure. A coldness. An absence of a humanizing purpose. A bit of spitefulness and the malicious thrown in for effect. Willem de Kooning continues to divide critics and pubic. On on part, a misogynist, sexist man , a woman-hater, sadistic representing the modernist tradition in the spirit of Picasso. Or, visionary, who sensational use of color followed in the tradition of Manet and Seurat and foretold the viewing experience of an art based on codes instead of image. But, does it mean his art has meaning? And what is the meaning , since we know the high prices for De Kooning also create a high reputation. Money, the exchange value of the work, places De Kooning at the level of Da Vinci or Rembrandt. In this case of “efficient market” theory are we out of line in questioning greatness?
To emphasize the materiality of the medium at the expense of the figure — to turn the picture inside out, as it were, that is, to argue that the medium in which the picture is made, which supports the representation, is more important than the picture and what it represents, that a picture in the last analysis is a picture of the medium, as it were, with, as Zola said of Manet’s Olympia, the object represented no more than a prop for the medium, “bright, luminous patches” or “black patches” (“sensational touches” with little or no meaning, or perhaps with personal meaning for Manet and de Kooning rather than the social meaning of the whorish woman they represented) — is to regress to the primitive condition of tactility, to make a work in which the foregrounded figure eventually collapses and disappears into its tactile background (the so-called “all-over field”), becoming irrelevant, unnecessary, extraneous, incidental, suggesting that human presence is beside the artistic point, which is the point of Interchanged and Gotham News, both 1955, The Time of the Fire and January 1st, both 1956, February and Palisade, 1957, and the Black and White Rome series, 1959. When the painterly skin becomes more important than the human body — when the human body is flayed alive, for whatever emotional reasons — then painting no longer serves consciousness, but drowns us in the delusions of the unconscious, the mire of the unconscious into which it finally collapses and dissolves. Read More:http://www.artnet.com/magazineus/features/kuspit/willem-de-kooning-at-moma-10-6-11.aspa
So, we have a field of sensory sensations that becomes independent of the figurative and narrative elements of the art, as Greenberg maintained in his famous article of kitsch. Art within art, of which part is art for art’s sake and part is simply a series of codes that defines non-objective art and non-literal or non-figurative sensation. The question to bo posed is was it any better than what it supplanted or was it the dynamics of modernism that continually required the new, a renewal to turn the economic wheel? The answer is a bit of both. As Kuspit said, “The work of Kandinsky and Malevich announced the autonomy of the matrix of sensations, its existence as a realm unto itself, apart from any object representation.” Of course, the idea of sensation would become rote, generic and emotionally banal, but at origin, the object was discarded and the matrix of sensation was fundamental. The theory of the shock, the traumatic moment held indefinitely until dissolving. Destruction by negation and a nihilistic act as the end game of narcissism or some inscrutable process of redemption at work? …
With De Kooning, are we dealing with pure sensation or a some acting, representations of the mythologizing of sensation? With the former, one would have to have faith in the potential that direct sensation can be represented to the eexclusion, an alchemical process, that the impurities of cultural ritual and convention can be boiled off and that De Kooning extricated intrinsic contradictions, or he simply re-contextualized, re-jigging historical fantasies and mental constructs as re-packaged form of convention; a re-figurative of the intangible, a visual language of an Artaud, of which admiration and emulation is could be avoided instead of exalted.
Kuspit: The task of painting was no longer to represent objects but to present the matrix of sensations in all its exciting immediacy, to use Alfred North Whitehead’s concept of “presentational immediacy.” The matrix was no longer embedded or sedimented in objects, but exposed as objective in its own right. This unique esthetic experience — it is the visionary core of modernist esthetics — not only radically transformed the representation of the object, but quickly led to the realization that both the representation and the object represented were visual “fabrications” or “constructions” — grand illusions, as it were. The “subject matter” of visual art was no longer the appearance of objects assumed to be unconditionally real, but the contingent reality of the matrix of sensations.