Catalogue entry

P77158 Landscape at Stanton Street 1971

Lithograph 650 × 485 (25 5/8 × 19 1/8) on wove paper 757 × 565 (29 3/4 × 22 1/4); printed by Fred Genis at Hollander's Workshop, New York and published by Knoedler and Hollander's Workshop, New York in an edition of 60
Inscribed 'de Kooning ‘71’ below image b.r. and ‘53/60’ below image b.l.
Purchased from Fabian Carlsson Gallery (Grant-in-Aid) 1986
Lit: John Ashbery, ‘Willem de Kooning’, in John Ashbery and Thomas B. Hess (eds.), ‘Painterly Painting’, Art News Annual, vol.37, 1971, pp.117–29; Philip Larson, ‘Willem de Kooning: The Lithographs’, Print Collector's Newsletter, vol.5, March–April 1974, pp.6–7, repr.; Lynne Cooke, ‘On the Stone’, Times Literary Supplement, 29 Aug. 1986, p.940; Lanier Graham, The Prints of Willem de Kooning: A Catalogue Raisonné 1957–1970/1, Paris 1991, p.65 no.26, repr. Also repr: Xavier Fourcade, De Kooning: Lithographs, Stockholm 1985, [p.22]

Landscape at Stanton Street’ consists of agitated black lines and ink spatters of varying density. The free, gestural brushstrokes are typical of de Kooning's style and P77158 was made in the only period of sustained printmaking in his career. The title refers to a street in the Lower East Side of New York with which de Kooning is probably familiar, although the compiler has been unable to confirm the artist's reasons for choosing this title or subject. Landscape has been a recurring theme in de Kooning's output. However, in common with many of his works of the 1970s, P77158 does not represent the subject in a naturalistic manner; it could be described as an emotional response to a specific location.

In his catalogue raisonné Lanier Graham (1991, pp.70–82) groups de Kooning's prints in three classifications: signed limited editions, signed proofs or unsigned limited editions. P77158 belongs to a group of twenty-four lithographs de Kooning made between 1970 and 1971 which were released as limited editions. De Kooning also signed a further thirteen proofs made in the same period. Eighteen of the editioned lithographs were made from drawings transferred to aluminium plates. Two were etched directly onto aluminium plates. Four images, including P77158, were drawn directly onto lithographic stones. John Ashbery (Ashbery and Hess 1971, p.120) wrote that these four, made in the early summer of 1971, were generally more densely worked than other prints from 1970–1 and were the last of the group.

The publisher Irwin Hollander has said that de Kooning had frequently declined the opportunity to make a larger body of prints (see Gustave Groschwitz and Clinton Adams, ‘Life and Work: Thoughts of an Artist-Printer. A Conversation with Irwin Hollander’, Tamarind Papers, vol.8, 1985, p.38).

Sonia Dean suggested that de Kooning's resistance to printmaking was hardly surprising for an artist ‘whose mode of expression was the large painterly gesture’ and for whom ‘the very complexity of print processes could impede the spontaneity of the gesture and cramp the vitality of the image’ (The Artist and The Printer: Lithographs 1966–1981. A Collection of Printer's Proofs, exh. cat., National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne 1982, p.12). The idea of collaboration is at odds with de Kooning's artistic approach; an element of unpredictability or loss of control occurs when handing over a drawing or plate to a craftsman. A second reason for his reluctance to make prints is probably his unwillingness to consider a work completed, which runs counter to the finality of a signed, editioned print. De Kooning's decision to make prints in 1970 was probably influenced by a trip to Japan he made the previous year at the invitation of his dealer, Xavier Fourcade, who was there on business. Japanese Sumi brush paintings and Japanese calligraphy probably inspired de Kooning. Two lithographs from 1971, ‘Love to Wakako’ (Graham 1991, p.74, no.18, repr.) and ‘Japanese Village’ (ibid., p.75, no.19, repr.) are related in their title and subject to this visit.

Hollander brought four surfaces - transfer papers, stones, zinc and aluminum plates - to the artist's studio at East Hampton for him to draw on. According to the printer Fred Genis, de Kooning hated working directly on lithographic stone when he first tried it and the compiler has been unable to ascertain why he decided to try again later. He also quickly rejected aluminium plates. Genis and Hollander then offered him transfer paper so that he could work in a manner more familiar to him. De Kooning spread his drawings on the sheets of transfer paper on the floor. He then cut them up and re-aligned sections of them to make collages. These collages were then transferred to plates for printing.

In the view of Lynne Cooke the four lithographs drawn directly onto the stone, which include P77158, have an immediacy and greater vitality than the twenty other lithographs of the group. They bypassed the intermediary transfer paper and differed from the others, she suggested, ‘in that they are crammed with jostling incident, which engulfs the pace and format in a restlessly eddying flow, a barrage of activity and energy’ (Cooke 1986, p.940). Ashbery wrote that de Kooning had made the last four prints ‘with an energy and euphoria unusual even for him’ (Ashbery and Hess 1971, p.128) and described the increasing vitality of the images, ‘where references to landscape, body and undecipherable abstract notations combine, proliferate, disappear or collide, sometimes all at once, to explode finally in the four lithographs’ drawn directly on stone (ibid., p.120). He noted that in P77158 ‘the strata seem to be collapsing inward into what Andrew Forge, writing on de Kooning, has called “reconcilable extremes of fragmentation and wholeness, violence and repose”’ (ibid., p.128). Philip Larson (1974, p.7) commented that P77158 was one of de Kooning's most energetic prints:

‘Landscape at Stanton Street’, is crowded with an incredible array of graphic incident and painterly effect. In this work and in ‘Minnie Mouse’, the entire field is alive with churning, metamorphosing forms that show off the tonal range talked about in lithography method books but rarely achieved within significant form. The edge of the stone is darkly inked to bring out its willfully meandering outline-a feature of many early Rauschenberg lithographs-and incidental pits and scratches print as fine white details. Splashed dots and rings left by exploded bubbles of tusche seem to swim in riverlets down the center and congregate in pools at the edges. These are works with the old ‘everything shows’ expressionistic aesthetic. The stone prints are ‘straight’-no fancy overlay of screenprinting with lithography, no phototransfer, no miraculous rainbow roll - but by their very poverty represent an updating of stone lithography comparable in quality to some of the now legendary work done by younger artists at ULAE [United Limited Art Editions, New York].

Lynne Cooke (1986, p.940) suggested that de Kooning's prints, particularly those drawn directly on the stone, were a natural extension for an artist for whom drawing lies at the heart of his work. Comparing his prints of the early 1970s to his drawings, she wrote, ‘on the one hand he avoids the stark silhouetting of black on white that is found in much printmaking - as well as his own ink drawings of the late 1950s - and on the other he shuns the isolated, discrete, discontinuous marks which characterise his charcoal drawings of the 1970s’.

Ashbery commented on the quality of the black in the prints. ‘Though he is at times throughout the series happy to conjugate the nuances of black - crisp or velvety, thin or gooey - with a virtuoso's relish, more often than not it is the poorness of black that he is calling attention to. Many of the blacks look almost grizzled, and sometimes all nuances are lost in murky passages where no attempt is made to distinguish one kind of black from another’ (Ashbery and Hess 1971, p.126). According to Genis, de Kooning wanted the ink to sit ‘like oil’ on the paper (Melbourne exh. cat., 1982, p.12). The blacks were ‘tuned like a car engine’ until they achieved the exact balance required by the artist. Dean (ibid., p.12) wrote that in his choice of paper de Kooning was careful to avoid ‘the hard slick effect which sparkling black on brisk white paper can reproduce’.

Published in:
Tate Gallery: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions 1986-88, London 1996