One more addendum to two themes from earlier this week—the reopening of the Rose Art Museum (here), and my albeit very personal response (which has become, over the years, increasingly disapproving) to the Woman series on display in the De Kooning retrospective at the MOMA (here):
Former Rose Art Museum director Carl Belz was instrumental in bringing two pieces into the Rose collection that make their homage—on many levels—to De Kooning‘s still controversial paintings. One is by Mel Ramos and the other by Robert Colescott. They hang together, both large pieces, and seem to carry on the conversation that started so many years ago.
From the commentary provided at the Rose:
A giant of postwar American art, Willem (Bill) de Kooning, painted one of his most iconic words, Woman I, during the early 1950s. Former Rose director Carl Belz wrote in 2011 that it “inspired and haunted an entire generation of young painters,” who saw it a the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Two of those painters are Mel Ramons…”I Still Get a Thrill When I See Bill #1″…and Robert Colescott, “I Gets a Thrill Too When I Sees De Koo”…
In 1980, Belz curated the exhibition, Mel Ramos: A Twenty Year Survey, which included “I Still Get a Thrill When I See Bill #1” on loan. A year later, Belz’s friend Senator Bill Bradley gave Colescott’s painting to the Rose. The Ramos came up for auction in 1996, and Belz seized the change to add it to the collection.
Belz describes having the Colescott and Ramos on view simultaneously “as a postmodern appropriation, as an ironic comment about the comment about the creative act, as an oblique yet moving tribute, as a pictorial exploit, you name it, it [is] all there.
I also liked this quote from Ramos in 1980:
I was just really troubled by Willem de Kooning’s paintings at one time. So it was quite a challenge for me actually to try to attempt to do that painting just sort of outright, blatant, straightforward—here’s Woman No. 1—and still make it, you know, a Ramos painting.
…it was the kind of things that I was doing with that painting, that is, the involvement with the paint istself, the painting of brushstrokes, that is, the reconstituting of those brushstrokes, painting them visually the way they appear in magazines, as opposed to the way they actually appear on the paint, on the surface, which has nothing to do at all with the way they appear in magazine. You’re conscious of just so much energy and inhuman speed and transitory thoughts when you look at that work. So my painting is actually a painting of a reproduction of it, although it’s been slightly altered. I added breasts. I made a nude out of it. I painted it all flesh.