Recent Acquisition | Willem de Kooning’s “Minnie Mouse”

Susan Sheehan Gallery
Sep 13, 2019 6:18PM

Minnie Mouse, 1971, lithograph, 30 x 28 inches, edition of 60

Willem de Kooning achieved renown as one of the preeminent Abstract Expressionist artists of the New York School and made forays into printmaking at various points in his career. The years 1970 and 1971 proved to be the most intense and productive period of printmaking for the artist when he collaborated with master printer Irwin Hollander at his workshop in New York City. Recently back from Japan and newly inspired by Zen teachings, calligraphy, and sumi ink painting, de Kooning believed that lithography might provide a new means to investigate these ideas. The twenty-four editioned lithographs from the period contain a Far Eastern aesthetic and are full of figurative references that dissolve into loose, gestural brushwork, drips, and splashes. The act of drawing on the lithographic plates with tusche, the greasy liquid used in making lithographs, was quite similar to painting for de Kooning. He experimented with the medium by combining the tusche with unconventional materials to explore a range of visual effects such as in the work Minnie Mouse, which was produced by mixing tusche with gasoline.

Minnie Mouse makes a playful reference to de Kooning’s best-known body of work, “Women,” although they are usually more aggressively depicted. With the artist’s title as a clue, the viewer can make out the high heels of the cartoon character. The work is a brilliant and rhythmic fusion of what can be seen, and what surrounds what can be seen. His iconography during this period focuses on the relationship between the formless and the formed, oftentimes one dissolves into the other as in Minnie Mouse. Although de Kooning made editioned prints after 1971, that year marked the end of his most active period of printmaking. Seven of the Hollander prints were purchased by de Kooning’s lawyer, Lee Eastman, who gave them to The Museum of Modern Art, where they were put on view in an exhibition entitled, “Seven by de Kooning” from 1971 to 1972. Curators recognized a connection to Far Eastern aesthetics combined with de Kooning’s Abstract Expressionist sensibilities. Today, the Hollander prints are among the most significant bodies of graphic work to be produced in the post-war period.

Susan Sheehan Gallery