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Town Square

Photo: Spike Mafford / Zocalo Studios. Courtesy of the Friday Foundation

Town Square

1948

Willem de Kooning

American, (born The Netherlands), 1904-1997

1948 was a significant year for Willem de Kooning. In April, his first solo exhibition opened at Charles Egan Gallery in New York, featuring ten mostly black and white abstractions. The exhibition received critical and institutional recognition, and Town Square is part of this important body of work characterized by a hybridity of abstract and figurative forms, reduced color palette, and fluid compositions.

At the time, de Kooning used transparent tracing paper to explore the effects of individual lines and forms. Built in layers, white is the dominant color upon which a composition of black lines with ochre accents appears in a state of flux—an effect the artist described as a “slipping glimpse.” In tandem with his predominantly white abstractions such as Town Square, de Kooning also worked in the inverse, creating white-on-black compositions.
Oil on paper mounted on Masonite
17 3/8 × 23 3/4 in. (44.2 × 60.3 cm)
Gift of the Friday Foundation in honor of Richard E. Lang and Jane Lang Davis
2020.14.2
Provenance: The artist; Leo Castelli, New York; Mr. and Mrs. Ben Heller, New York; acquired from the above by Jane and Richard E. Lang, Seattle, 1976; Friday Foundation, Seattle, 2018; Seattle Art Museum, 2020
Photo: Spike Mafford / Zocalo Studios. Courtesy of the Friday Foundation
location
Now on view at the Seattle Art Museum

Resources

Exhibition HistoryChicago, Illinois. Arts Club of Chicago, Ben Shahn, Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock, Oct. 2 - 27, 1951. Cat. no. 22.

East Hampton, New York, Guild Hall, Fourth Annual Invitation Exhibition by Regional Artists, July 24 - Aug. 12, 1952.

Venice, Italy, XXVII Venice Biennale, United States Pavilion, 2 Pitorri: de Kooning, Shanh; 3 Scultori: Lachaise, Lassaw, Smith, June 19 - Oct. 17, 1954, organized by the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Cat. no. 65, p. 395 (as La piazza della città).

New York, New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, The Museum and Its Friends: Eighteen Living American Artists Selected by the Friends of the Whitney Museum, Mar. 5 - Apr. 12, 1959. No cat. no., p. 47 (as Village Square).

Cleveland, Ohio, Cleveland Museum of Art, Paths of Abstract Art, Oct. 5–Nov. 13, 1960. Cat. no. 94, reproduced (as Village Square).

The Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Ben Heller, organized by the Museum of Modern Art, New York (Chicago, Illinois, Art Institute of Chicago [as The Ben Heller Collection of Paintings of the School of New York], Sept. 22 - Oct. 22, 1961; Baltimore, Maryland, Baltimore Museum of Art, Dec. 3 - 31, 1961; Cincinnati, Ohio, Contemporary Arts Center, Jan. 22 - Feb. 25, 1962; Cleveland, Ohio, Cleveland Museum of Art, Mar. 13 - Apr. 10, 1962; San Francisco, California Palace of the Legion of Honor, Apr. 30 - June 3, 1962; Portland, Oregon, Portland Art Museum, June 15 - July 22, 1962; Los Angeles, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Sept. 5–Oct. 14, 1962). No cat. no., reproduced (as Village Square).

Willem de Kooning, organized by the Museum of Modern Art, New York (Amsterdam, the Netherlands, Stedelijk Museum, Sept. 19 - Nov. 19, 1968; London, England, Tate Gallery, Dec. 5, 1968 - Jan. 26, 1969; New York, Museum of Modern Art, Mar. 5 - Apr. 26, 1969; Art Institute of Chicago, May 17 - July 6, 1969; Los Angeles, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, July 29 - Sept. 14, 1969). Cat. no. 34, pp. 62-63, reproduced.

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Museum of Art, Carnegie Institute, Willem de Kooning, Pittsburgh International Series, Oct. 26, 1979 - Jan. 6, 1980; cat. no. 10, p. 41, reproduced (award shared with Eduardo Chillida).

New York, New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, Willem de Kooning: Drawings, Paintings, Sculpture, Dec. 7, 1983 - Feb. 26, 1984 (Berlin, Germany, Akademie der Kunste; Paris, France, Musée National d’Art Moderne) [Town Square shown in New York only]. Cat no. 169, reproduced p. 166.

Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, The Richard and Jane Lang Collection, Feb. 2 - Apr. 1, 1984. Cat. no. 5, pp. 17-18, reproduced.

Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, Willem de Kooning in Seattle: Selected Works from 1943 to 1985 in Public and Private Collections, Nov. 2, 1995 - Mar. 3, 1996. No cat. no., reproduced (as Townsquare).

Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, SAM at 75: Building a Collection for Seattle, May 5 - Sept. 9, 2007.

New York, New York, Museum of Modern Art, Willem de Kooning: A Retrospective, Sept. 18, 2011 - Jan. 9, 2012. No cat. no., reproduced pp. 209, 244, figs. 1 and 9.
Published ReferencesA Community of Collectors: 75th Anniversary Gifts to the Seattle Art Museum, Seattle: Seattle Art Museum and University of Washington Press, 2008. Reproduced p. 36.

Seattle Art Museum acknowledges that we are on the traditional homelands of the Duwamish and the customary territories of the Suquamish and Muckleshoot Peoples. As a cultural and educational institution, we honor our ongoing connection to these communities past, present, and future. We also acknowledge the urban Native peoples from many Nations who call Seattle their home.

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