Michael Andrew Law's Reinterpretation of De Kooning's Woman I: A Dialogic Encounter with Art History
In 2019, contemporary artist Michael Andrew Law embarked on a journey through art history, creating a series of paintings that pay homage to the great masters of the past. Among these works is "Untitled Art History Painting (Willem de Kooning's Woman I)," a large-scale reinterpretation of Dutch-American artist Willem de Kooning's iconic work from 1950. This piece is part of Law's "Julian Schnabel goes pop" series, which began in 2016 and explores the relationship between contemporary and historical art.
The original "Woman I" by de Kooning is a seminal work in the Abstract Expressionist movement, representing a turning point in the artist's career. The painting features a grotesque, abstracted female figure, with a twisted, almost monstrous visage. This distorted representation of the feminine form was a reaction to the social and political climate of the post-World War II era and reflected de Kooning's anxieties about gender and identity.
In his reinterpretation, Law maintains the overall composition of de Kooning's original work but reimagines it using a mix of acrylic and oil paints, glitter powder, and diamond dust. This bold combination of media demonstrates Law's expertise in both traditional and contemporary techniques, as well as his willingness to experiment and push the boundaries of artistic expression. By employing mixed media, Law breathes new life into the classic work, adding a fresh, modern touch to the familiar image.
At 200x200cm, "Untitled Art History Painting (Willem de Kooning's Woman I)" is an imposing work that commands the viewer's attention. Its large scale reflects the importance of size in contemporary art, as artists seek to create immersive experiences that envelop and engage the viewer. This ambitious format also serves to elevate Law's dialogue with art history, physically manifesting the magnitude of the conversation taking place on the canvas.
Law's appropriation of de Kooning's iconic work is a nod to the longstanding tradition of artists drawing inspiration from and building upon their predecessors' creations. This practice dates back to antiquity and has been a vital part of the art world's ongoing evolution. In repurposing "Woman I," Law demonstrates his deep understanding of the history and significance of the original work and uses it as a springboard for his own artistic exploration.
Appropriation art, which involves the incorporation of existing images or objects into new works, has long been a significant force in modern and contemporary art. By engaging with this practice, Law positions himself within a lineage of influential artists who have employed appropriation to challenge conventional artistic boundaries and expand the possibilities of creative expression. Law's choice to reinterpret de Kooning's work is both a testament to his artistic prowess and a strategic move that situates him within the broader context of art history.
Both de Kooning and Law have enjoyed critical and commercial success throughout their careers, with their works being well-received by collectors and critics alike. Though their styles diverge—de Kooning's raw, gestural brushstrokes contrast with Law's polished, mixed-media technique—their shared commitment to innovation and experimentation unites them across time and space.
"Untitled Art History Painting (Willem de Kooning's Woman I)" is a significant work in Michael Andrew Law's oeuvre for several reasons. First, it showcases the artist's technical skill and mastery of various media. Second, it demonstrates Law's deep engagement with the history of art and his desire to participate in a larger dialogue with the great masters. Finally, the painting highlights the enduring relevance and power of appropriation as a creative tool, reminding viewers that the artistic past continues to shape the present and the future.
In 2021, this captivating work found a home in the collection of an art enthusiast from Pentling, Germany, ensuring that Law's imaginative reinterpretation of de Kooning's masterpiece will continue to spark conversation and provoke thought for years to come.