Published  10/06/2004

De Kooning plots posterity

The enigma of de Kooning's late works, when he suffered from Alzheimer's disease, persists; they are notorious if only for the cloud that hangs over them. The centennial exhibition at the Gagosian Gallery in New York, closing on 19 June 2004, reveals the marked contrast between the paintings of the 1940s, and those of his last few years in the 1970s. However, as Robert Hughes recently pointed out (The Guardian, 13 May 2004) de Kooning was as embedded in the experience of landscape and mutable light as the American 'luminist' Martin Johnson Heade 'had been out there among the dunes a century before', So, forget that riddle of de Kooning's work, 'abstract or not abstract'. But where are the women?

Which brings us to the thought - what would de Kooning have made of Conder's Dungeness beach house. No, not Charles Conder, but the architect Simon Conder and his 'rubber house'. He has taken the remnant of a fisherman's old hut and covered it with black rubber. The matt black finish, the seemingly flat and endless seascape - perhaps this was what de Kooning really needed, coming from Holland, and could never find at Cape Cod.

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