Do you know that old thing about how infants go to sleep in response to sensory overload--like really loud music? Prior to this week, I always thought about it in the abstract, although its very disintuitiveness makes it almost certainly true. Kind of like Wall Street.
But all that is history now. Rewind to this past Tuesday, the sixth floor of the Museum of Modern Art, and me coming out of a perfectly pleasant nap with a prison guard ... no, make that a security guard ... nudging me with his night stick ... check that ... walkie talkie, and saying something along the lines of "Wake the fuck up, you miserable bum" ... no, check that too ... perhaps more like "Sir, you'll have to get up or we're calling the police."
So I struggle to my feet and ask what happened.
"I found you asleep in the final room of the de Kooning show," the guard explains, not without a bit of attitude.
And an old crone (cue central casting: Scene One/MacBeth) hissed "And you were sucking your thumb!"
I'm not sure I'm comfortable with your use of ellipses in the second paragraph.
Me neither. But dashes didn't seem to be doing the trick.
Hmmm. Certainly commas wouldn't have been enough.
They're like eunuchs.
Yes they are. Certainly in this day and age. Although a portion of the blame for that must surely be laid at your very feet.
Because you feel that I overuse them, is that it?
It most certainly is. An apt parallel would be super-bacteria, nosocomial infections and the societal overuse of antibiotics.
Wow. I might have gone with a comma after "infections."
That's because you like to tell people you studied at Oxford.
Perhaps I should stop doing that.
Perhaps you should.
All this by way of saying that the Willem de Kooning show at MoMA was literally more than I could stand. It's arranged chronologically, and by the time I hit the late 70s I was experiencing a profound melancholy. And by 1985, I was starting to gently weep. I couldn't help but lie down for a bit.
My boy Willem gets a lot of shit for his really late work; the rough argument being that you can't paint masterpieces if you are experiencing dementia.
Me? I don't accept that. For one thing, what's to forget if the whole thing is sitting on the canvas, staring back at you? It's not like writing a novel where you have to remember what happened in Chapter Two as you're writing Chapter Thirty. And although there was plenty of intellectualizing back in the day (the fusion of background and foreground to create a unified image in portraiture [see: Woman I by W. de Kooning; The Annotated Fed by G. Raymond] was certainly carefully calculated to rock everybody's world), I think my boy Willem was more of a doer than a thinker.
That is a crass simplification of the reality of de Kooning's process.
Yes it is. Can you just shut up and let me finish.
I understand that this is a crass simplification of the reality of de Kooning's process, but that doesn't mean it's not without its own bit of truth. And if he became even more of a gesturalist in his leaner days, that doesn't mean he couldn't still bing out a good one every once in a while.
This one jumps to mind:
Me? I'm sharp as a tack and I'd have a hard time squeezing this out. Shows you that clarity of the mind is an over-rated quality. Anybody from the Peter McManus Cafe can attest to this.
Anyway, here's the kicker:
I googled "late de Kooning" then, once it came up, hit "images" to find the juicy example of a late de Kooning you see above. I found it on the second page. Google (if you don't know) is nice enough to tell you the source of the image when you click on it. The source of this one, I was delighted to find, was yearofmagicalpainting.blogspot.com.
Which really is kind of magical, if you think about it. The entire post, from about 2 years ago, reads like this:
_________________________________________Live-Blogging the Mets, Volume 2
Actually, I watched the Mets/Yankees game last night virtually live. Started on time, but then paused and painted during the commercials. Eventually I got far enough ahead to control my own destiny.
Fun game. Less fun at the end. But that's not what I'm here to talk about.
I'm here to talk about Derek Jeter ... and the aging of same.
Me? I'm a huge Derek Jeter fan, so don't take what I'm about to say the wrong way. But watching him last night made me wonder if we weren't watching Father Time slide the rug out from under the guy. Sure it's just one game, but he looked like hell.
We'll get to this in a minute, but this is a de Kooning ribbon painting from the very end of his life.
I love that little hint of a breast in the white panel on the right side. Good to know the old bird was still thinking about women.
Back to Jeter. He's 36 years old, just for the record. Which is old for a shortstop, let me tell you. And watching the Mets' ground balls carom off the tip of his glove over and over again last night reminded me of watching Kareem Abdul Jabbar's final season. It was as if he was aging right in front of our eyes ... and it was a painful thing to see, dear reader.
There's a part of me that's thinking all this talk about a contract extension for the guy may be a bit premature.
Anyway, when de Kooning was dying of Alzheimer's Disease, there was a lot of talk about how his late work was somehow invalid (as in NOT valid). I always thought this was a bunch of guff.
Here's another late-stage work:
And here's one of the de Kooning Motherships (Woman V, it's called--the kind of stuff he was painting when he was dating the then-deceased Jackson Pollock's former girlfriend, Ruth Kligman) :
All of which brings me to the story about how I almost burned up my kitchen the other day, but I'm not really in the mood to talk about it right now, other than to say that the beauty of being a painter is that the whole thing is staring right at you. It's not like being, say, a novelist. Where you have to hold plot strands in your head and remember what you wrote in Chapter Four as you craft Chapter Eleven.
No, dear reader. It's all right in front of you.
Which shows you, if nothing else, dear reader, that I have one or two original thoughts and just keep churning out slightly modified versions to feed your appetite for my stuff. I apologize.
I would have gone with a question mark at the end of that last sentence.
I would have too.