About the Exhibition
Willem de Kooning (1904-1997, b. Rotterdam, Netherlands) is one of the most important artists of the 20th century. Known primarily as a painter, de Kooning was a major figure in the Abstract Expressionist movement that was fundamental to the ascendancy of American art during the post-war period. While de Kooning had been encouraged to explore the possibilities of sculpture by Henry Moore, it was not until the summer of 1969 when traveling in Italy that de Kooning created his first work in this medium. Arriving in Rome that July, the artist met an old friend, sculptor Herzel Emanuel, who had recently acquired a foundry outside the city. De Kooning modeled a group of small works in clay, and Emanuel cast them in bronze. Among these clay figures were two untitled works that would later be enlarged to monumental scale. These sculptures, shown for the first time at public venues in New York City, are exhibited at Bryant Park (Reclining Figure, 1969-1982) and Doris C. Freedman Plaza (Standing Figure, 1969-1984).