Bodies of Desire: Works on Paper by Willem de Kooning and Chloe Piene
Curated by Klaus Ottman

"Bodies of Desire: Works on Paper by Willem de Kooning and Chloe Piene" (January 16 through February 24, 2007) will combine a selection of de Kooning's works on paper depicting women with Chloe Piene's autoerotic charcoal drawings.

In the mid-1950s, Willem de Kooning surprised the artists and critics of his time by resurrecting single-handedly the female form, which had been largely abandoned by his peers. Between 1951-53 he created a series of paintings and works on paper on the theme of the Woman, which by some were compared to goddesses and by others, to whores. The women in these works were naked, either depicted singly or in pairs, usually standing or seated and facing the viewer, presented unashamedly sexual, with grossly enlarged mouths, eyes, breasts, and vaginas. De Kooning said later about these works: "Certain artists and critics attacked me for painting the Women, but I felt that this was their problem, not mine . . . I have to follow my desires." In 1966 de Kooning executed a second series of Women drawings, this time with his eyes closed. In these works, the women are less confrontational and more seductive, but just as brazenly sexual. What may have made these works so scandalous at the time was that, despite their stereotypical depiction, de Kooning's Women seem less like (sex) objects and more like subjects that embody not simply the artist's desire but a desire of their own. They recall the famous dictum by the French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan that desire is always the desire of the Other.

The young brooklyn-based artist Chloe Piene has been making delicate charcoal drawings of naked figures on paper and vellum based on photographs of herself, other people, and, occasionally, animals since the late 1990s. The frantic energy of the lines in her drawings is evidence of their performative character (they are executed rapidly) and are an strangely alluring complement to their unsettling imagery, which often imbues its autoeroticism with Vanitas-type morbidity. Piene sees her work as riding "between the erotic and the forensic." At times, Piene's drawings seem a perfect marriage of Northern-Renaissance art with twenty-first-century body culture. Piene is only one in a generation of young women artists (Cecily Brown, Sue Williams, Wangechi Mutu, to name but a few) whose works possess a new, in-your-face-sexuality that is redefining painting in terms of the body and pushing the issue of female sexuality to the forefront.

The exhibition is curated by Klaus Ottmann, an independent curator and scholar based in New York. Mr. Ottmann most recently curated the Sixth International SITE Santa Fe Biennial (on view until January 7, 2007) and has been appointed as the curator for the 2007 Open ev+a exhibition in Limerick, Ireland.

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