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This text, in its entirety, was drawn up by Leon Trotsky and me, and it was for tactical reasons that Trotsky wanted Rivera's signature substituted for his own.On page 40 of my work, , among them the omission of the following final paragraph: “Capitalism in decline finds that whatever quality it is still capable of producing becomes almost invariably a threat to its own existence.Both the artist and the patron knew exactly the audience toward which the work of art was directed..
Excavation is strategically located to be the climactic experience in the room devoted to de Kooning’s “breakthrough” black-on-white enamel and oil paintings, which took letters from the alphabet as their starting point but through acts of concentrated painterly energy became something else—organic shapes, anthropomorphized figures, ambiguous forms, increasingly vibrant, rhythmical, and abstract, which I found thrilling to look at.
Excavation, more pale yellowish-white than the black of the other paintings in the room, was de Kooning’s largest work yet—6’9” by 8’4”—and my husband pointed out that he no doubt felt compelled to work on this larger scale, given that it was the moment of the mural-scale paintings of Jackson Pollock et al.
Such was de Kooning’s “talent” that no matter how radically he tried to break with line-bounding shapes, in Excavation, it feels like there is always a ghost of the figure about to reappear.
Pointing to a particularly elegant equivocal line, oscillating between two- and three-dimensional pictorial space, my husband reminded me of how much it shared with the small still life from de Kooning’s student days in Rotterdam that we admired in the first room of the exhibition, Bowl, Pitcher, and Jug (1921).
Everything, in retrospect, seemed to be contained in this beautiful little drawing.
The simultaneous edge and profile of the jar and pitcher that had made such an impression on us had become the elegant equivocal line that my husband was now pointing out to me in Excavation.
Just as I was asking him if he thought that it was the same line that we saw in the black-on-white enamel paintings where de Kooning had managed to escape the seductions of color, an excited stranger interrupted us: “Brilliant, amazing, he’s incredible!
” He told us that he was a painter, that long ago he had been an art student in Chicago, that he stopped and looked at Excavation every day when he walked through the Art Institute of Chicago to get to class.
As he looked again at the painting he knew so intimately, he seemed on the verge of transport and wanted us to know what he was seeing.
He said it was like looking at ten paintings in one and began pointing to one section of the canvas after another, directing our attention to that little patch of scraped-back orange over there, the blue and red marks at the center, the way the paint stacked up at the bottom edge of the canvas.