Elaine de Kooning, Arena No. 2, 1960, Oil on canvas, 80×72 inches
With only a one week delay from Hurricane Sandy, Levis Fine Art’s new gallery in New York City opens with a solo show of the work of Elaine de Kooning on November 15th. The show will run through December 15, 2012. The exhibition of paintings, drawings and sculpture spans forty-five years of the artist’s immense creative output as an “Action Painter”. Drawn from her estate and several private collections, it embraces works from the five series of works for which she is so well known.
Seeking to embody her work with the struggle of a single transient moment, Elaine de Kooning relentlessly sought to capture a unique sense of the movement and gesture of a subject or a scene. This visual vocabulary, which owed a debt to her husband and mentor Willem de Kooning, was threaded throughout her career.
The exhibition includes a striking array of portraits where gesture is everything, as seen in the large faceless portrait, Conrad, as well as portraits of her peers Alex Katz, Joel Hirschorn and, Aladar Marberger.
Following her separation from Willem in 1957 and subsequent move to New Mexico, Elaine created the colorful and emotionally charged “Bullfight” series, demonstrating a newly found freedom of artistic expression. This rich period of creativity is represented by Farol, 1958 and Arena II, 1960. Inspired by the expansiveness and colors of the Southwest and the action and color of the bullfights in Juarez, her painting format over this ten-year period grew in scale, shifted to a horizontal format and become infused with colors drawn from nature and costume alike.
The somewhat unlikely series of sports paintings begun in 1947 and lasting for more than 30 years reflects her passion for basketball and baseball since childhood. One of Elaine de Kooning’s most celebrated sports paintings is Basketball #40, 1977, with its highly charged surfaces and depth of emotion. The scene is the 1972 NBA Western Conference Finals, the Milwaukee Bucks vs. the LA Lakers; capturing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain, and Lucius Allen, all caught in mid lunge.
Elaine’s “Bacchus” series of the 70’s and 80’s, based on the 19th century sculpture in Luxembourg Gardens, is notable for brushstrokes that dance around the figures, continually challenging the viewer’s imagination as to the imminent moment of release.
Her final and highly celebrated “Cave and Bison” series including her sumi ink drawings during the last years of her artistic life are based on her visits to the prehistoric caves of Lascaux, France where she was unexpectedly awed. Elaine brilliantly “frees color from form, and line from permanence”. These works reflect the mastery of her lifelong commitment to expressing infinite expanses of energy and the transience of time.
Gallery hours are Tuesday-Saturday, 10-6, with Thursday evenings open till 9 pm. For more information, go to www.levisfineart.com.