Willem de Kooning: Conversation with April Gornik

**APRIL GORNIK: **I went to the show completely open to it. I was ready to be surprised, and I admired the incredible grace of the black and white paintings from the late ’40s. There were also a couple of landscape paintings that felt like there was some movement happening, the really big ones in the middle room that were clearly landscape-inspired. But I didn’t leave that show thinking I have to get into my studio and paint. If I go to a show that I absolutely love, I always feel that way. That didn’t happen with the de Kooning exhibition. There is a splendid amount of paint application and energy, and his ordering is wonderful. He gets a kind of vertical movement in his work, where things are falling apart or tumbling down, or the symmetry of the single figure has this direction that feels like it could be funneling out or exploding up. I got into that. In a lot of his paintings there is an overall colour application that, even though it was well handled, wasn’t that exciting until you get to some of the late paintings. Then things become more eccentric and challenging. But as I said, some of the late paintings that were chosen were awful and so unrepresentative of ones I’ve seen and really love, ones with more light and more movement. Eric and I were lucky to have been over at his studio a few summers ago and there were some late paintings there that were just gorgeous. I also saw a couple of paintings at the National Gallery in Washington that held the light in a surprising and weird way. Not the way I do it, but I really felt it. If you think of his surface as undulating like waves, and then you think of the light as going through it and exploding it; that’s the way those really good light paintings feel to me.


To read the full interview, pick up issue 121, on newsstands now - or click here to subscribe. Above image: April Gornik, *The Lion’s Eye, 2010, oil on linen, 72 x 96”. Courtesy the artist and Danese Gallery, New York.*

Volume 31, Number 1: Willem de Kooning

This article originally appeared in Border Crossings #121, published February 2012.

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