The story of Erased de Kooning Drawing

earased-de-kooning.jpg
New York magazine ran a 3-page excerpt from de Kooning: An American Master, by Mark Stevens and Annalyn Swan, describing how a young Robert Rauschenberg asked the middle-aged de Kooning to give him a drawing that he could erase.
In Mark Stevens and Annalyn Swan's Pulitzer Prize–winning biography of Willem de Kooning, they tell the story of de Kooning's 1953 visit from Rauschenberg, a kindred spirit in loving "the rude parodic squawk in the temple of art." But Rauschenberg wasn't stopping by de Kooning's studio to pay homage; he was there to ask for a de Kooning drawing – to erase. In honor of the late Robert Rauschenberg, we're pleased to present the scene in its entirety.

Click here to read the three-page PDF.

Link | Here's a video about it. (Thanks, Coop!)

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  1. Dedlen,

    Please don’t link to your blog in your comments unless it’s directly related to the post. That belongs on your profile page. Thanks.

  2. #3,
    How do you tell a dadaist erasure from an abstract expressionist erasure? Need a better eye than I.

  3. How do you tell a dadaist erasure from an abstract expressionist erasure?

    Do you mean that in a phenomenological or an epistemological sense?

  4. This is like Jazz, if you’ve gotta ask why this is art, man you’ll never know.

  5. Dave Hickey had a nice essay in “Air Guitar” that related this erased drawing to Liberace’s mirrored Cadillac; the act of erasing the object of desire increases its prominence.

  6. Thanks for sending me back to my bookcase Lindz, I love it. Unfortunately I couldn’t find my copy of Air Guitar. I remember the essay had to do with Mr. Hickey following many threads about concealment, desire, and authenticity in art and pop culture.
    The sensationalism of Rauschenberg making a DeKooning go away made both the DeKooning and Rauschenberg himself more visible through the act. Does that make sense?
    Liberace’s mirrors removed the car (by reflecting the surrounding landscape) while at the same time celebrating the car (the camouflage made it stand out).
    I should have read the PDF first, I’m sure.

  7. Actually I wasn’t referring to the Cadillac, but the erased painting and modern art in general

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  9. What is it about painting that produces such a comically distorted sense of self worth?

  10. Nothing will seem surprised or sad again

    compared to those imperious, vacant frames.

  11. #16

    What is it about painting that causes people to bring the hate (still)?

    The spirit of rebellion. The fearless crossing of boundaries.

  12. reminds me of tom friedman’s erased playboy centerfold.

    the idea here, folks is that the blurb of text next o the art IS a part of the art, meant to allow you to consider the process and context of the particular work (in these cases erasure) to evoke feelings and ideas related to it. this very basic idea of art for the last 100 years is totally lost on those who simply look at the “final” product and say, “hey, that’s stupid”.

    note: i am not defending abstract expressionism here, merely the use of concepts that require foreknowledge to appreciate the art…

  13. Sorry, all.

    I just got excited to find modern art masters telling their stories, revealing how important intention is. That last bit of the video is golden!

    Peace.

  14. I cannot respect this as a piece of art. So fiercely do I appall the destruction of the previous work that I can not begin to appreciate the “intent” here.

    Which is strange, because I can and do respect the work of John Cage in his piece 4’33”. He was asking people to actively listen to their environment.

  15. I like Tom Friedman’s “Piece of paper stared at for 1,000 hours”, too.
    That one really does irritate folks.
    I think Tom is pretty much devoid of much theory, though. He just depends on our acceptance of existing conceptual art ideas.
    At least that’s what I think.

  16. While I’m at it here, The Abstract Expressionists operated on a Modernist model, right? So they believed in the artwork’s inherent ability to deliver the intent of the artist. Conceptual art as we know it (with it’s origins in text-based work) began in the 1970’s.

    I agree Ab-Ex is more approachable with a little art history under one’s belt to recognize what is being done with the form and why it’s important.

  17. anthony…

    read the phaidon emerging artist series on tom friedman… he seems full of theory from that read… particularly the utter breakdown of ordinary objects to the point of exhaustion… there’s a list in that book that goes into his process.

    piece of paper stared at for 1000 hours is great. it is the ultimate “blank” work in my opinion. it gives a sense of time that few works can.

    i also like him because he appreciates thomas brinkmann, squarepusher, richie hawtin and stereolab, just like me!

    there are these indescribable points of gnosis that great art hints at. at least, that’s how i see it…

  18. i agree with #23ANTHONY that it takes a bit of not just art history, but history in general, to undersand the art ‘movements’ that have occurred over time. cave painting to realism to baroque and romantic, with the invention of the camera, the artist is freed from the constraints of realism and all hell breaks loose! impressionism leads to abstraction, war leads to dada and surrealism, abstract expressionism is basically jazz music set to color on a canvas. according to pollock, anyway. he and dekooning were huge bebop fans. music always had a large impact on whatever art was at any time period. no artist lives in a vaccuum. the fact that ab/ex is still talked about today with just as much passion, speaks volumes about its relevence!

  19. James, I think I have read that book, but I’m not sure. ….Long artist interview that begins with Tom describing a transformative time in school when he sat in an emptied studio, to start from scratch?

    I guess I still read him as someone who makes clever jokes but relies on a conceptual overlay to validate them as authentic or relevant. Lots of artists allow this to happen and maybe even seek it out. Maybe I’m not giving him enough credit. I will re-read. I enjoyed his show at the MCA in Chicago years ago, with the paper murder scene, aquafresh painting, and tiny portraits carved into aspirin tablets. Is he doing more than putting on the put-ons?

  20. This reminds me of a huge “tempest in a teapot” that occurred in Canada when the National Gallery purchased Voice of Fire in 1989 at a cost of $ 1.8 million dollars. The press, politicians and general public went nuts for months. I will condense the rhetoric to: All that money for three strips of paint? My kid could do that! etc…

    To this day it is held up as an example of government waste.

    My initial reaction was the same. I am not an art major, but I like to think I have an open mind. So I went down to the gallery, and took a look. You don’t get an idea of the scale of this thing from a photo. In the linked picture, that’s a 16 inch high bench just below the painting.

    Voice of Fire is almost eighteen feet high! In person it is extremely impressive. The panels are not solid colour but beautifully textured.

    The brochure says of the work: “As we struggle nationally and internationally without individual and collective identities, it is a timely reminder for each of us what it is to be independent and free of oppression while at the same time part of a larger world.”

    I have no idea what that means. Again: Not an art major. I sat before that painting for 15 minutes thinking about it…

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