Artwork of the month April

Willem de Kooning, Cross-Legged-Figure, 1972, Hilti Art Foundation

Willem de Kooning

1904 in Rotterdam – 1997 in Long Island, New York

Cross-Legged-Figure, 1972

Bronze (cast: Modern Art Foundry, New York)
62,2 x 42 x 42 cm
Hilti Art Foundation, Schaan


In 1969, de Kooning took advantage of a chance encounter in Rome with a friend, the sculptor Herzl Emanuel, who gave him the use of his workshop and foundry in Rome where he playfully worked in clay and then cast the results in bronze. He started out making small objects almost like amulets, before moving on to medium­-sized and later monumental sculptures, which were basically anthropomorphic in appearance. The striking way in which de Kooning treated his material led to figures that do not appear to have been worked from inside out in the traditional fashion, starting with a sturdy skeleton and gradually fleshing it out. Instead, they trace the action of the hands, working from outside in: we do not see the hands following the logic of the figure, but rather the figure following the logic of the hands and their direct impact on the clay. Often shaped with his eyes closed, the works quite liter­ally incorporate the flow of the artist's movements and sensations, yielding results that are analogous to the iridescent nature of de Koonings' expressive painting between figuration and non-­figuration.

Structurally, some of the sculptures, like Cross-Legged-Figure, cannot stand on their own; they are presented lying down or require a support to appear stably suspended in space. The floating dynamics of this particular sculpture evoke a dancing figure, for instance, the Indian god Shiva, a medieval Morris dancer, or early modern dance, indeed, dance in gen­eral with its both standardized and ecstatic forms of movement. Cross-Legged-Figure in­spires other associations as well, its raw existence possibly representing an early stage of natural history, a creature that embodies all the immanent potential of the development of matter and spirit, or, quite the opposite, an end state of civilization, in which catastrophe has exhausted that potential, leaving behind nothing but deformed, lifeless matter.

Uwe Wieczorek


"The texture of experience is prior to everything else."
Willem de Kooning

<b>Willem de Kooning, Cross-Legged-Figure, 1972, Hilti Art Foundation</b>
Kunstmuseum Liechtenstein highlights a work from the permanent collection each month throughout the year. Works from the collection of the Hilti Art Foundation are also included in this series on a regular basis.