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Willem de Kooning


May 6 - June 17, 2006
523 W 24 Street
Opening Friday, May 5, 2006

Press Release

Matthew Marks is pleased to announce the exhibition Willem de Kooning: Sketchbook, the next exhibition on view in his gallery at 521 West 21st Street.

The gallery will be exhibiting a sketchbook by Willem de Kooning from 1975–1978. This sketchbook includes the cover page and all eighteen drawings in their original order.

Willem de Kooning drew in sketchbooks constantly, and during the late 1970s, the period of some of his most celebrated canvases, he would sketch nearly every night while sitting in front of the television. However, his sketchbooks were systematically dismantled; a key aspect of his working process was to take sketchbooks apart to consider the drawings separately when working towards a painting, and no record was kept of their original order. His studio assistants diligently observed this practice, and, upon the artist's death, no sketchbooks were to be found among the hundreds of drawings in his estate. The present sketchbook escaped being taken apart because de Kooning gave it to a friend shortly after its completion.

These drawings were made in the mid to late 1970s, at the start of the artist's most serious period of struggle with alcoholism, when he spent a brief and troubled stint as a member of the Alcoholics Anonymous chapter of Montauk, New York. This sketchbook thus begins with a cautionary inscription in the artist's hand: "When an alcoholic takes a drink it is an act of violence against himself."

The sketchbook includes drawings of men, women, and animals in both indoor and outdoor settings. Some drawings appear to be of commonplace domestic scenes: a woman, seated in a chair with her legs crossed, looks down at a dog by her feet; others are more fantastical in nature: a man brandishes a giant sword or waves a gun over his head. The sketchbook includes several religious references as well: one drawing is inscribed "Immaculate… as the floors of a church," while another is marked "SAINT," and still two others depict the Crucifixion.

These drawings were made at a time of great inspiration for the artist. Newly stimulated by his Long Island surroundings, he painted some of his most magnificent canvases between 1975 and 1979, and the drawings in this exhibition display the frothy figuration and all-over composition that are hallmarks of the illustrious work of this period.

Willem de Kooning: Sketchbook will be on view at the Matthew Marks Gallery, 523 West 24th Street (between 10th & 11th Avenues) through Saturday, June 17th, 2006. The gallery is open Tuesday through Saturday, 10:00 A.M. to 6:00 P.M.

Additional Information