Excavation, de Kooning, 1950

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Oil and enamel on canvas.

(I saw the de Kooning: A Retrospective exhibit at the MoMA this weekend:)

Because of its strategic placement within the exhibit, you know it’s a big deal. It’s at the dead center in the very back, as a way of suggesting that this is what the rest of the exhibit is leading up to. And it’s understandable why it’s such a big deal. I’ve never seen anything like it. It was completed in the same harsh, hurried style that de Kooning seems fond of, but the slashes and spots of color seem more like the result of a more methodical process. The yellows, dark pinks, turquoises, and deep reds break through the overwhelming creme/beige color in ways that both complement the colors themselves, as well as their placements on the canvas. The sometimes-dripping, sometimes-smudged, black lines that surround and seem to almost reveal these colors really does make the piece a kind of excavation. A search for color and brightness that takes a lot of harsh black and ugly beige to find. It makes me pretty proud to be wearing bright red pants as I stand here staring at it.

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