De Kooning: A Retrospective,” at the Museum of Modern Art, is the most piercing, inexhaustible, and relentlessly intense full-on career survey I have ever seen in this country. It could only be better by being bigger. Packing the museum’s entire sixth floor with nearly 200 paintings, prints, sculptures, and drawings (these last the equals of Ingres, Seurat, and Picasso), this retrospective should permanently set the art-historical record straight on this artist. Willem de Kooning is generally credited for coming out of the painterly gates strong in the forties, revolutionizing art and abstraction and reaching incredible heights by the early fifties, and then tailing off. His work of the late fifties and sixties is maligned as facile or turgid, his sixties sculpture called kitsch, his abstract-figurative hallucinations of the seventies essentially ignored, his profound paintings of the eighties suspect. This show, organized by MoMA’s chief curator emeritus of painting and sculpture, John Elderfield, proves that de Kooning started great and only got better.
more from Jerry Saltz at New York Magazine here.