Media Theory for the 21st Century

February 5, 2008

the slippery glimpser

Filed under: Discussion — johnbcarpenter @ 8:20 pm
Tags: , ,

while reading wolfgang schivelbusch’s “panoramic travel” chapter in the railway journey, i immediately thought of the work of dutch artist willem de kooning because i’ve always enjoyed the way that his paintings capture glimpses of movement and (e)motion. in discussing his paintings, de kooning says

“each new glimpse is determined by many, many glimpses before. when i’m slipping, i say, hey, this is interesting! as a matter of fact, i’m really slipping most of the time, into that glimpse. i’m like a slipping glimpser.” The New York School: Abstract Expressionism in the 40s and 50s, Thames and Hudson, London, 1969.

de kooning often focused on landscapes, whether it was the countryside or the human body, and painted his subject matter in a way that didn’t allow the eye to rest on a particular area–when i look at a de kooning painting, my eye continually shifts through a progression of focal points… the movements joy and/or chaos creates an incredible sense of de kooning’s feelings and memories at the time he created the painting.


i’ve been reading an interesting book on de kooning by thomas hess (DE KOONING: Recent Paintings, 1967) that discusses a couple of works that are relevant to the schivelbusch reading:

de kooning, pastorale, 1963

pastorale, 1963

“in this painting, the light is still of the city and its close suburbs–the landscape that wheels by as you drive back to town, the parkways, ramps, overpasses. and some of the violence in the paint handling, particularly the thrown and spattering energy at the angles which burst out from the central horizontal action, conveys de kooning’s response to the city and it’s energy, style, and madness” (14). the movement depicted in these paintings is de kooning’s vehicle for discussing his thoughts and feelings on life (i.e. about moving to the united states/new york, or reflecting upon his relationships with women).

de kooning, woman I, 1950-52

woman I, 1950-52

additional reading:
IN SHORT; A Slipping Glimpser, Sarah Boxer

Blog at