Description: Weldon Kees, “T,”
n.d (c. 1948)
Location of Origin: North America
Medium/Materials: Oil on canvas
Dimensions: 28 x 24 inches
Primary Classification: Fine Art : Paintings
Secondary Classification: Modern and Contemporary Art
Expertise: Weldon Kees, thus far best known as a poet (and an excellent poet he was), but a masterful painter, too, whose work was admired by the likes of Hilton Kramer, Harold Rosenberg, Dore Ashton and Clement Greenberg as well as by the vast majority of his contemporaries among the “Irascibles” (with the occasional notable exception of Robert Motherwell, whom we will make the effort to excuse in this instance). Kees’s painterly work is sure-handed, fluid and evocative, contributing a powerful and original vocabulary to the ranks of Abstract Expressionists: to our mind, his work is far more interesting than that of many of his famous colleagues. Had he not disappeared, first into San Francisco and then into the waters below the Golden Gate Bridge in 1955 at the age of 41, we are quite convinced that his work would be as well-known as that of his confreres. The lively small canvas entitled “T”, shows the deepening of Kees’s concerns with field and ground. The elegant grey space out of which the T-shaped figures of the title emerge is incised in a way that makes the figures appear at one moment to emanate from beneath the ground and the next to hover above it, creating a tension that almost expresses itself as motion. The letters seem to dance, as if they were characters in an animated cartoon, gleefully hopping about, and their wonderful hues accentuate the effect. The notion of “cutting out” a pictorial space from out of a dimensionless ground was a part of the practice (and theory) of de Kooning and Gorky around this same time, sometimes said to derive from their experience working as house painters taping off borders.