Saturday, January 22, 2011

Willem De Kooning Standing Figure (1969-1984) Bronze, Jardine de Tulliers, Paris. by craniv boyd

Willem De Kooning Standing Figure (1969-1984) Bronze, Jardine de Tulliers, Paris. by craniv boyd


There is a three meters high blob of bronze occupying a place in the grass of a garden of Paris's first Arrondissement. But don't worry the bronze is not molten it is not moving and does not pose any threat to those masses of tourists and Parisians who visit the large garden between the Louvre and Place de la Concorde.


I hazard to say that this is the best public sculpture that I have seen in an urban setting for a long time. Strange that the best public sculpture would come from the hands and mind of that great New York School modern master painter Willem De Kooning, instead of an artist working exclusively with sculpture. It is quizzical that this powerful and ominous Standing Figure possesses attributes and an aura of the hand held or intimate being a work of large stature. This comes from the nature of its creation. De Kooning made a clay sketch for this sculpture with his hands, most likely when the artist was residing in Rome at the end of the 1960's. Then later in the early 80's there was interest for his 3 dimensional works this small standing figure, was enlarged from the pocket sized macquette to its current size and cast in bronze. One sees proof of this faithful enlargement of the artist's hand in the form of a thumbprint the size of an adult human's head.


Standing Figure is not really a human, yes it has arms of sort, thin skinny arms that extend themselves outwards, reaching, yes standing figure supports its self with legs, a kind of thick stumpy legs, and perhaps standing figure has a head too, one of the large oblong faceless variety. Standing Figure is weirdly humanoid, startlingly familiar and bizarrely foreign all at once. This is a strikingly simple achievement of genius for De Kooning, artist who straddled both worlds of figuration and abstraction for years in a quest for Freedom. It is frightening to think of what kind of movements this behemoth would have if it could be ambulant.


Viewers of De Kooning's Standing Figure, who have also seen Urs Fishers Retrospective at the New Museum on the Bowery in Manhattan, will recognize the familiar process of blowing up a hand made piece of clay to over life size scale in aluminum or stainless steel in a Chinese metal foundry. In De Kooning's work there is no apparent overwhelming presence of commentary on Globalism, irony or razzle-dazzle sensationalist installation tactics, as was the case with Swiss born, Brooklyn Based Fischer's exhibition at New Museum. By Razzle-dazzle I mean, blowing up a hand made clay macquette in a Chinese foundry and hanging the large amorphous blob that weighs a lot from a chain attached to the ceiling so that the sculpture rests a mere few centimeters from the floor. Hanging as opposed to standing, the sculpture that hangs is made with an attitude of just because instead of because I can. These two artists who elect to do in affect the same type of process, are vastly different, one sees the painterly mastery of materials and communion aspect in De Kooning's work Standing Figure, made by a mature artist who was deeply in awe of the dignity of humankind. One can observe also the occasionally photo based eclectic ironic wry sensationalist installation practice leading up to Urs Fishers bombastic yet random just because sculptures with sophomoric overtones he exposed at the New Museum and elsewhere in the art world. One sees clearly in the aura of the artwork what is meant as an elegy and what is meant as a pun.  by craniv boyd

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