de Kooning can be a hard artist to love. His misogyny, as seen in his Woman paintings (Woman I is above), takes away from the rest of the great experiments in color and line his abstract expressionist works represent. But, whereas Pollock’s paintings were all rhythm and pace as he performed his heavy booted ballet around the periphery of his canvases, de Kooning’s paintings are beautiful in gesture even when violent, a clash of colors culminating in a unified whole that defies conscious construction. de Kooning’s drunken, lusting Id saturates each stroke, for good and for ill.
As his Alzheimer’s disease took its toll, his style changed into something simpler, more abstract, free of this misogyny but also free of the bold gestures of who he was in toto. Robert Rauschenberg’s Erased de Kooning, a drawing by de Kooning given to Rauschenberg to be erased and then exhibited as conceptual art, symbolizes for me the “erasure” of one of the great artistic visions of the 20th century.
(de Kooning: An American Master, by Mark Stevens and Annalyn Swan is essential reading for anyone wanting to know more about de Kooning.)