Elaine de Kooning @ the National Portrait Gallery

Elaine de Kooning, Willem de Kooning, c. 1952, oil on panel, 38 5/8 x 25 1/2 x 1
Elaine de Kooning, Willem de Kooning, c. 1952, oil on panel, 38 5/8 x 25 1/2 x 1/2 inches (National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution © Elaine de Kooning Trust)

Tim Keane reviews Elaine de Kooning: Portraits at the National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C., on view through January 10, 2016.

Keane writes that "the show offers uninitiated visitors a chance to discover an American artist who redirected techniques of twentieth-century vanguard painting into a form of portraiture that is as much about the rhythms and processes of human recognition as it is about the diverse characters who were her subjects... her ability to paint this glimpse may explain her paintings’ intentional 'absences,' as discussed by critic Ann Eden Gibson. Gibson claims, in her penetrating essay, that Elaine de Kooning deliberately and variously integrated into her portraits incomplete features and implicit cognitive gaps. According to Gibson, she did so to generate an invisible, evocative vortex of sorts in each portrait, within which (as Roland Barthes claims happens in portrait photography) three human subjectivities can merge in a visual continuum – that of painter, sitter and viewer."