The exhibition at the Kunstmuseum Basel focuses on paintings created by Willem de Kooning between 1960 and 1980. De Kooning is considered to be one of the leading exponents of American Abstract Expressionism and is celebrated in the US as a key figure in twentieth-century painting. In Europe, however, the significance of the artist, who was born in Rotterdam in 1904 and died in New York in 1997, has yet to be fully appreciated. This is particularly true of his work of the sixties and seventies, when he increasingly began to distance himself from the big city life of New York, and, from 1963 onward, lived and worked on Long Island all year round.
The paintings of that time bear the stamp of his elemental response to the landscape, and it is there that the figuration – which Willem de Kooning never quite abandoned, unlike other representatives of Abstract Expressionism – acquired a gestural vibrancy and a new richness of hue. Through a concise selection of large-format paintings, this brilliant and ground-breaking period in de Kooning’s work is placed firmly in the spotlight. De Kooning’s later 1980s paint ings, which display other characteristics, and which formed the focus of an exhibition that ran in the US and Europe in the mid-nineties, are not included.