Friedlander/De Kooning, Portraits & Figures

Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles


Lee Friedlander
Etsuko Watari

Lee Friedlanderís monumental portraits (8 x 10 inches all) gain by being seen at a distance of twelve or fifteen feet (this is the portfolio dedicated to Garry Winogrand, and includes a portrait of the photographer).Up close, theyare often uncannily like Diane Arbus, and there is one of her (with her daughter Amy).At a distance, they stand unmistakably in the line of American folk portraiture so-called.The effect appears to be as deliberate as Rembrandtís famous Juno in the Armand Hammer collection, which is all squiggles and dabs without an intervening space.


De Kooning can draw like Ingres, he shows you.His element is Gorky, the problem is Picasso.So, for ten or fifteen years he solves it in myriad ways.Sometimes laborious, sometimes fun, sometimes (once at least) Van Velde.

There isnít really anything going on, apart from the meditation on Picasso.You canít really solve Picasso, you can look at the Demoiselles díAvignon, do what you want with that, treat it as a model you inhabit, like a comic strip or can of soup.Variations on a theme, all of them interesting, of course, and in an exhibit so vast (Willem de Kooning: Tracing the Figure) you are caught by the side of your eyes with the breathtaking charm of this or that unexpected variation, which is one of the great pleasures De Kooning must have derived from such activity.

Along with a jest on Picassoís Chef díĆuvre Inconnu.

Willem de Kooning
Two Women

Willem de Kooning