Home to the Famous Abstract Expressionist During the Heyday of his Career
& why it made the Carpe City list
Abstract Expressionism, an art movement also known as the New York School, started in New York in the 1940s and 50s and featured the use of colors and abstract forms. Focusing not on objects and what they look like, but rather the portrayal of the emotions, colors, and visions that the subjects evoke, it followed on the heels of the Surrealism movement but differed in its incorporation of post-war anxiety, trauma, and emotion. Paintings of this movement are characterized by their large scale, sweeping brush strokes, vibrant and varied colors, and lack of traditional composition. Some famous Abstract Expressionist artists include Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Clyfford Still, Franz Kline, and Mark Rothko.
De Kooning’s Woman Series is a group of paintings started in the 1940s that continued through the 1950s. The paintings depict, well, women, but in his particular, abstract context. De Kooning plays with proportions and distorts pretty much everything, as abstract expressionist art does. The series features six paintings. He created more than 200 sketches as preparation for painting Woman I, according to his wife, the painter Elaine de Kooning. It’s not that the women are any more warped than some of the strange, cubist women painted by Picasso. Many critics looked at the Women paintings and saw them as degrading towards women, while others identified the paintings as continuing a conversation amongst artists through time, exploring the shapes and figures of women. It’s said that artist Robert Rauschenberg asked de Kooning for one of his Woman sketches so that he might erase it – one heck of a criticism! That de Kooning consented to another artist destroying his work is certainly a testament to de Kooning’s faith in the artistic process.
The East 10th Street Galleries, located on the short block between 3rd and 4th Avenues, opened in the early 1950s as a group of cooperative, artist-run galleries. The spaces were small, and no one served as staff, per se. These galleries were a community-run alternative to some of the more established galleries uptown. The galleries solidified the neighborhood as a popular and influential gathering place for artists who operated outside the mainstream, doing more daring and unusual work, as eclectic as the Village itself. The galleries hosted sculptors, painters, photographers, and performance artists working in collage, and experimenting with early Pop Art (made famous by Andy Warhol). The galleries even brought together Realists (like Villager Edward Hopper) and Abstract Expressionists like de Kooning, working at opposite ends of the broad spectrum of the art world. One of the galleries in this group, called the Tanager (1953-1962), was right next door to de Kooning’s home. De Kooning never showed at the 10th Street Galleries. He was already established and shown in more prominent galleries and museums. However, because he was nearby, he mentored many up-and-coming artists in the neighborhood.
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