Gloop Gluckness of the Droopy Drop Underworld
Painting, Willem De Kooning. 1948.
By JESSIE MAC
Published: September 29, 2011
Indulge yourself in a medicinal swig of bitter whiskey and embrace the burning in your chest before getting sucked into a sticky vortex of De Kooning at the MoMa. Immersed within his black night the subject is indistinct and matters little. It is the familiar presence that you can barely make out in the distance as you swim through liquid black goodness that brings us back for more at the witching hour. We begin by lighting our way through the smoke-filled whiskey bar which De Kooning portrays so lusciously with a fragmented image he calls Matchbook. This piece is a formal introduction to the artists’ broken world, which you will come to know so well. It begins to peels off strands of the dimension previously known, until everything you thought you once knew turns into spaghetti.
De Kooning’s work is reminiscent of universal collision. His images break apart time and space into fragments which were unconceivable previous to living in this world of luminously dark paint dripping over the fractal night. Inviting forms of anonymous solid matter introduce you to many shades of opulent black. Though these silhouettes remain nameless, their characters come to life. Gaze as they inhale thick smoke and exhale colors reminiscent of the rust, gum and cement that culminate a shared experience of nighttime, downtown. Even the rippling paper underneath that he used as canvas looks as if it had been soaked in liquor, right off of the wall from the scene he was painting.
Begin the exhibition feeling disoriented as you try to navigate your way through the rumble jumble and the paintings he names Painting. Stumble upon a way to articulate yourself through the background noise of slurred speech. In the work of Night, 1948, the eye is immediately drawn to a creature of the gloom breathing heavily and falling over onlookers. He and the other elusive figures fight over the canvas, having a loud conversation that is just on the brink of a potential argument between the synthetic and the organic. Just as a violent fight arises you are sucked back into the calming ebb of the night tide.
Explosive boobs are a landmark in most pieces, and are the key to catching your bearings in unmarked De Kooning territory. Within all the clutter, smut, and lustful liquid velvet, your watering eyes will only be able to make out a familiar depiction of busty cleavage leaning over the bar you think you may or may not be at. This repeated image is the golden key to climbing up and out of the clutter. However, just as you thought you might remember where you are, you cannot make anything else out because you just crawled right into another dark, smoky abyss. Once again all you can decipher is another pair in the haze. By the time we come to the piece Untitled 1948-49, you are no longer swimming but diving into the paint. Fully take on the role of random indefinable character within the splendor and ferociousness of the frame. Look past the white forms you can hardly make out but have come to recognize, and embrace the negative space as your own.
Thirty years later you’ll catch yourself smirking in the dark reflection as you walk past nostalgic cracks in the cement- cigarette butts fossilized into the ground- wondering how such a nebulous scene could live solely on a square of canvas. Your eyes glance upwards away from sticky memories of wet paint, and lock with Cross-Legged Figure, a sculpture from 1972. The glooby figures walked out of the paintings of the night in the last room. They are now sitting amongst you, and recognize you from the whiskey bar thirty years ago. The murky gloop turns statuesque, and you will be relieved you do not have to talk to that inhuman mass whose name you could not remember.
Violently shivering as night turns to dawn, you can hardly remember that solely fragmented lines in a painting created the chills up your spine. Forced to leave as the MoMa guards close in, we are alleviated from liquid fluxes and a dimension of sauce. We are reminded to condense back into solid matter, uptown in the daytime, until we meet again.