I've been reading de Kooning: An American Master by Mark Stevens and Annalyn Swan steadily for the past few weeks. This is a big deal because my recent history with reading and actually finishing books has been pretty dismal. I'm about half-way through de Kooning and there's no sign of me slowing down with it.
I've been drawn to mid-century Abstract Expressionism for a long time, although, most of de Kooning's work never really resonated with me for some reason. I remember being in college and liking the works of Franz Kline, Mark Rothko, and Barnett Newman. There were a couple of de Kooning's abstract works that I liked, but that was it. I didn't have much interest beyond that. However, upon reading about the new biography, I jumped at the chance to read it and find out more about de Kooning and how the the other New York-based artists and critics he was contemporaries with helped change America's role in the art world at large.
Reading de Kooning has given me a much better sense of what was really happening at the time as well as a better sense of who de Kooning was. Not only that, the authors have done a great job of fleshing out and describing in great detail what life was like for artists in New York and how what was to become 'Abstract Expressionism' emerged from Cubism and Surrealism. Reading it, I can almost hear the arguments and debates going on in the cafés and lofts about Modernism, Surrealism, and where American painting was going now that the 'downtown' artists were begining to get recognition. It's also interesting reading about how the present-day model of the gallery system emerged and how big of a role art critics of the time played in getting the public's attention turned onto the works of American artists. Before the rise of the New York School, the artists who garnered the most respect were European.
I could go on for a bit about this, but I'll stop and get back to my own work.