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Willem de Kooning

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Certain artists and critics attacked me for painting the ‘Women’, but I felt that this was their problem, not mine. I don’t really feel like a non-objective painter at all... It’s really absurd to make an image, like a human image. With paint, today, when you think about it, since we have this problem of doing it or not doing it. But then all of a sudden it was even more absurd not to do it. So I fear I have to follow my desires.
interview conducted by David Sylvester for the BBC, 1962; as quoted in Abstract Expressionism: Creators and Critics, edited by Clifford Ross, Abrahams Publishers, New York 1990, p. 45

Willem de Kooning

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In 1946 what I call my ‘Little Image’ began breaking through this (former) gray matter of mine. I felt fantastic relief that something was beginning to happen after all this time when there was nothing, nothing, nothing… …The canvas is down on a floor or table and I am working out of a tiny can. In other words, I have to hold the paint so I can move it. But I wouldn’t have been using Duco (industrial paint, ed.). My paint would always have been oil and I could get the consistency of a thick pouring quality in it by squeezing it into a can and cutting it with turp (turpentine, ed.) – the way I use paint today (1975, ed.)... ...The only thing I can say with absolute assurance is that my ‘Little Image’ work starts about 1946 and ends in 1949.

Lee Krasner

Now let acknowledge the fact that to explain the meaning of painting is difficult. And when the form and the content are really new, there is not even a vocabulary with which to attempt to explain the new work. This is a problem for critics and a difficult problem. I think it is about time for the critics to face this problem, as well as the fact that there are a few new forms and ideas in modern painting, that these have validity, that they are here to stay and will be developed whether opposed or not... They should investigate the serious ideas underlying the painting which they malign. (his comment on the attacks of critics on abstract art, 1948)

Adolph Gottlieb

The idea of an isolated American painting, so popular in this country during the thirties, seems absurd to me, just as the idea of a purely American mathematics or physics would seem absurd... And in another sense, the problem doesn’t exist at all; or, if it did, would solve itself: An American is an American and his painting would naturally be qualified by the fact, whether he wills or not. But the basic problems of contemporary painting are independent of any one country.

Jackson Pollock

If you push it, it feels good; I don’t know what it is. It must have something to do with kinesthesia. I feel now that I am painting I’m not drawing anything, or even representing non-objective art. You know, you can represent abstract art, too, as well as heads figures, nudes. A lot of abstract artists are just representational painters, you know that. And a lot of figurative artists are very abstract. I don’t feel as if I’m doing that. I feel more as if I’m shaping something with my hands. I feel as if I’ve always wanted to get to that state. Like a blind man in a dark room had some clay, what would he make? I end up with 2 or 3 forms on a canvas, but it gets very physical for me. I always thought I am a very spiritual man, not interested in paint, and now I discover myself to be very physical and very involved with matter. I want to be involved with how heavy things are, a balloon, how light things are, things levitating, pushing forms, make me feel as if my hand is pushing in a head, bulges out here and pushes there.

Phillip Guston

It is the bareness of drawing that I like. The act of drawing is what locates, suggests, discovers. At times it seems enough to draw, without the distractions of color and mass. Yet it is an old ambition to make drawing and painting one. Usually I draw in relation to my painting, what I am working on at the time. On a lucky day a surprising balance of forms and spaces will appear and I feel the drawing making itself, the image taking hold. This in turn moves me towards painting -anxious to get to the same place, with the actuality of paint and light.

Phillip Guston
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