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280 × 210 mm
312 pages
107 illustrations, 96 in colour
01 Sep 2011
  • £40.00

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Between Sense and de Kooning Richard Shiff

‘Order to me is to be ordered about’, Willem de Kooning said. Between Sense and de Kooning is an exploration of how de Kooning both worked and thought concerning art, while respecting the artist’s own ambiguities and his reluctance to embrace categorical distinctions between representation and abstraction. Richard Shiff acknowledges de Kooning’s idea that art is not about concepts like progress or development, but is instead a sensory phenomenon.

The word Sense in this book’s title carries a dual meaning – it is used here as both a sensation or feeling and as reason or direction. Employing both definitions, Shiff addresses the difficulty in interpreting de Kooning’s work that has complicated its critical reception in the art and scholarly world. With detailed analysis of specific works from throughout de Kooning’s career, many of which have never been published or studied before, Shiff discusses de Kooning’s use of materials and his technical experimentation. He looks at the artist’s painting processes, highlighting his tendency to transfer images, and even paint itself, from one work to another, and considers his creation of an exotica of the mundane. Between Sense and de Kooning provides a much-needed analysis and appreciation of de Kooning’s complete œuvre and will appeal not only to art historians but to anyone curious to understand how such an independent and daring artist gained lasting recognition as one of the key figures of twentieth-century art.

‘With graceful, concise prose, Shiff demonstrates that when process is an end unto itself – when art is not a step on the path to illustrating a goal, but rather the creative acknowledgement of the rich expressive potential of spontaneity and chance – the resulting object becomes a product capable of standing apart from any effort at its textual acculturation. This revealingly rich interface between de Kooning’s thought, method, and art provides an erudite, timeless discussion.’ – Choice

Between Sense and de Kooning is an extraordinary and fresh text on one of the giants of postwar art . . . Shiff’s close attention to de Kooning’s art produces a richer and much more satisfying and convincing understanding of its core aesthetic qualities and first-order meanings. As such, the book deserves to be read by all practitioners of modern art history as an experiment in ‘close’ art writing as a route to better interpretation.’ – Cassone Art Review

‘This extended meditation on the work of Willem de Kooning will fascinate some readers’ – Library Journal

‘Willem de Kooning is probably best known for his fierce and almost garish “Woman” paintings. What this volume makes evident is that there is a good deal of variety to de Kooning’s work – and to his portrayal of women. The real revelation here, though, is the late work, somewhat playful, but with a simplicity that can only be arrived at after years of mastery . . . admirably enlightening.’ – Philadelphia Inquirer

‘Richard Shiff’s Between Sense and De Kooning is a tour de force. But of what precisely? It’s a category of art writing for which there is no genre, like De Kooning famously said of Duchamp, he’s a movement of one! This is not a survey or a biography but an extraordinarily deep conversation with the reader about what De Kooning painted and what he said about it. It is an absolutely unique and wonderful book.’ – Jonathan Fineberg, author of Art Since 1940: Strategies of Being and A Troublesome Subject: The Art of Robert Arneson

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Richard Shiff is Effie Marie Cain Regents Chair in Art at The University of Texas at Austin. His other books include Cézanne and the End of Impressionism, Barnett Newman: A Catalogue Raisonné, and, most recently, Doubt in the series Theories of Modernism and Postmodernism in the Visual Arts.

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