Abstract – Observations: de Kooning

I anticipate a goldmine of information and inspiration from the book I am reading, Reductionism in Art and Science: Bridging Two Cultures, by Nobel Prize winning neuroscientist Eric Kandel. He points out the similarities between the investigative methods of neuroscience and the experiments of the abstract artists of the ‘New York School’. This group of artists used novel approaches to represent the world.

One of the New York School artists that Kandel mentions is Willem de Kooning. I haven’t progressed far enough in Kandel’s book to know de Kooning’s place in the development of abstract art, but I have a book with some of his writings.

De Kooning’s essay, What Abstract Art Means to Me was a tough read.  He begins by saying, “…[I]t is talking that has put ‘Art’ into painting.” The paragraph ends with the statement, “The art in it [painting] is the forever mute part you can talk about forever.” In other words, if a painting is art, it has an ineffable quality that is appreciated according to each observer’s background and experiences. The only way to communicate an individual’s perception of an artwork is through discussion.

“I’m not interested in ‘abstracting’ or taking things out or reducing painting to design, form, line, and color. I paint this way because I can keep putting more things in it – drama, anger, pain, love, a figure, a horse, my ideas about space. Through your eyes it again becomes an emotion or idea.” Willem de Kooning

To summarize, art becomes ‘Art’ when the artwork is observed and discussed, perhaps like quantum theory where observation affects the observed event.


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