Glancing paintings and poems: figuration and abstraction in Clark Coolidge’s Polaroid and Willem de Kooning’s Excavation

Ladkin, Sam (2012) Glancing paintings and poems: figuration and abstraction in Clark Coolidge’s Polaroid and Willem de Kooning’s Excavation. Textual Practice, 26 (3). pp. 421-448. ISSN 0950-236X

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Abstract

This article reads, in parallel, Clark Coolidge's Polaroid (1975) and Willem de Kooning's Excavation (1950). It argues that both are exemplary meditations on the tension between abstraction and representation, and display that tension as an affective struggle that ultimately refuses any easy conceptualization of ‘abstraction’ or ‘representation’. The argument bears on their reception. As ‘New York School’ artist or ‘Abstract Expressionist’, de Kooning worked at the biting point between figuration and abstraction. Coolidge's reception in the discourse of Language writing imputes a lack of referentiality, which this article critiques. Polaroid presents the qualifiers, pronouns, spatial prepositions, and deictic pointers that typically determine the coherence of the representational scene in the mind's eye. Here, however, the parts of language that facilitate meaning become the parts that resist recognition. The tension between our wish for context and the reticence of the artwork to fulfil that craving is compared to the context reticence of Excavation. The term deixis is given to describe the reception of both paintings and poems, and foregrounds the corporeality of the viewing subject, thereby refusing the possibility of a final abstraction (or lack of referentiality). The force of the comparison is paradigmatic of strategies of interdisciplinary reading generally.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: Clark Coolidge; Willem de Kooning; abstraction; figuration; deixis
Schools and Departments: School of English > English
Depositing User: Samuel Ladkin
Date Deposited: 25 Feb 2019 08:35
Last Modified: 02 Jul 2019 12:55
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/82109

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