Artwork of the month May

Willem de Kooning, Untitled XVII, 1976

Willem de Kooning

* 1904 in Rotterdam, Netherlands, † 1997 in Springs, New York, USA

Untitled XVII, 1976

Oil on canvas

150.8 x 139.4cm

Donation of the Stiftung zur Errichtung eines Kunstmuseums

In order to consider Untitled XVII, it would appear useful to begin by observing one's own process of seeing activated by viewing: the eye travels across the surface of the painting, looking for anchors, rarely standing still; attracted by a colour or by a relationship of certain colours it finally finds a clue, dwelling here in an attempt to identify objects, to assign meaning to what it can experience based on our accustomed everyday process of perception. But the composition of the painting, that is constantly thwarting this endeavour, guides the eye ever onward, keeping it in a continuously gliding search process. Another possible approach is the composition of the picture. It appears ultimately impossible to discern a colour ground against which the other colours stand out. Instead, Willem de Kooning breaks away from classical perspective, dissolving the centre in keeping with the all-over principle in favour of a radical movement of the entire surface, a powerful simultaneity of the gestural composition. Within this equal, seemingly self- contained, abstract whole, the work remains balanced, at the same time holding out the possibility of a reference – not to the exact representation of something, but rather to the stimulus for fleetingly imagining something. For despite its abstract nature, the work is founded on the artistic concept of staging a form that is in the process of becoming – that is to say, in statu nascendi. The constantly searching motion of our eye as, again and again, it makes out elusive concretions, emphasises this idea: "Content, if you want to say, is a glimpse of something, an encounter, you know, like a flash – it's very tiny, very tiny, content."

With its turbulent gestural mode of painting, Untitled XVII is pervaded by dynamics and explosiveness. For all that, the constant denial of any concrete content or form testifies to profound emotionalism and an erotic gesture. Willem de Kooning is one of the most important exponents of abstract expressionism.

Denise Rigaud

<b>Willem de Kooning, Untitled XVII, 1976</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.