The New Social Environment#519

Ode to Willem de Kooning

Featuring John Elderfield, Joan Levy Hepburn, David Reed, Richard Shiff, Mark Stevens, Robert Storr, Charles Stuckey, Annalyn Swan, Flora Yukhnovich, Phong H. Bui, and Erica Hunt


4 p.m. Eastern / 1 p.m. Pacific

This timely gathering produced by the Brooklyn Rail, in collaboration with The Willem de Kooning Foundation, marks the 25th anniversary of de Kooning’s passing. Join us for a conversation and festive celebration of the artist’s remarkable life and work, with an opening remark by the Foundation’s Executive Director Amy Schichtel, and personal reflections by renowned curator John Elderfield. We conclude with a poetry reading by Erica Hunt.

In this talk

John Elderfield

Drawing of John Elderfield by Phong Bui.
Portrait by Phong H. Bui
Curator John Elderfield is Chief Curator Emeritus of Painting and Sculpture at The Museum of Modern Art; Inaugural Allen R. Adler, Class of 1967, Distinguished Curator and Lecturer at the Princeton University Art Museum; and Consultant for Special Projects at Gagosian Gallery. He has organized more than twenty exhibitions at The MoMA, including Manet and the Execution of Maximilian (2006), Henri Matisse: Radical Invention, 1913-17 (2010), and major retrospectives devoted to, among others, Pierre Bonnard (1998) and Willem de Kooning (2011-12). Among his affiliations and awards, he has been a Visiting Fellow at the Getty Research; was named by Time magazine as one of the 100 Most Influential People of the Year in 2005; and awarded an honorary D. Litt. from the University of Leeds.

Joan Levy Hepburn

Photo of Joan Levy Hepburn
Artist and musician Joan Levy Hepburn worked closely with Willem de Kooning until the end of his life. He was her personal mentor, and guided her through art degrees at Rhode Island School of Design and Kansas City Art Institute. Her intention in painting is to make a real physical experience, rather than a “picture of one.” Joan’s work was represented by the Allan Stone Gallery from 1995-2009, until the gallery closed. She then painted her Streams series, which became a traveling exhibition. A book published in 2014 documents the Streams exhibition of oil paintings, with text is written by Richard Shiff. She gives talks at museums and universities about her personal experiences with Willem de Kooning to promote understanding of his work.

David Reed

A portrait of David Reed by Phong H. Bui
Portrait by Phong H. Bui
Artist David Reed attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture before receiving his BA from Reed College in Portland, OR. He studied at the New York Studio School and later attended a seminar there led by Philip Guston. Reed is the recipient of numerous awards, including the National Endowment for the Arts, John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship, and Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship. Select recent exhibitions include David Reed: New Paintings at Gagosian Gallery (2020), David Reed: Vice and Reflection – An Old Painting, New Paintings and Animations, Pérez Art Museum, Miami, FL (2016), and Two by Two: Mary Heilmann & David Reed, Museum für Gegenwart, Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin, Germany (2015).

Richard Shiff

A drawing of Richard Shiff by Phong Bui.
Portrait by Phong H. Bui
The Effie Marie Cain Regents Chair in Art at The University of Texas at Austin, Richard Shiff directs the Center for the Study of Modernism. His scholarly interests range broadly across the field of modern and contemporary art and theory. His publications include Cézanne and the End of Impressionism (1984), Critical Terms for Art History (co edited, 1996, 2003), Barnett Newman: A Catalogue Raisonné (co authored, 2004), Doubt (2008), Between Sense and de Kooning (2011), Ellsworth Kelly: New York Drawings 1954–1962 (2014), and Sensuous Thoughts: Essays on the Work of Donald Judd (2020).

Mark Stevens

Mark Stevens
Mark Stevens has spent decades in the publishing world of New York. He is the former art critic of Newsweek, The New Republic, and New York magazine. Together with Annalyn Swan, he is the author of de Kooning: An American Master, which won the Pulitzer Prize for biography in 2005 and the National Book Critics Circle Award and was also named one of the 10 best books of the year by The New York Times. He and Swan have just published their second biography together, Francis Bacon: Revelations. Stevens has written numerous essays for books and catalogues, as well as a novel, Summer in the City. He is on the advisory council of the Princeton University Art Museum.

Robert Storr

Robert Storr
Portrait by Phong H. Bui
Preeminent art critic, curator, artist, and educator Robert Storr is the former Dean of Yale School of Art and senior curator in the Department of Painting and Sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. He has written numerous catalogues, articles, and books on major 20th and 21st-century artists. He was the first American to serve as visual arts director of the Venice Biennale and has been researching and writing on Philip Guston for more than three decades.

Charles Stuckey

Photo of Charles Stuckey.
Art historian Charles Stuckey is a widely published independent scholar who has served as curator in major US museums including the Art Institute of Chicago, helping organize highly acclaimed retrospectives for Paul Gauguin, Claude Monet, and others. He has published and contributed to many books and publications, including Claude Monet, 1840-1926 (Thames and Hudson, 1995) and In Monet’s Garden: Artists and the Lure of Giverney (Scala Books, 2007).

Annalyn Swan

Annalyn Swan
Annalyn Swan is the former arts editor of Newsweek and an award-winning former music critic. She is the co-author, with Mark Stevens, of the biographies de Kooning: An American Master and Francis Bacon: Revelations. De Kooning: An American Master won the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for biography, among numerous other awards, and Francis Bacon: Revelations, published in 2021 in both the U.K. and the U.S., was named art book of the year by The Times of London and shortlisted for the Apollo prize. A graduate of Princeton University, Swan currently teaches in the Biography and Memoir M.A. program at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, as well as at Bread Loaf Middlebury School of English.

Flora Yukhnovich

Photo of Flora Yukhnovich.
Artist Flora Yukhnovich completed her MA at the City & Guilds of London Art School in 2017. In 2018 she completed The Great Women Artists Residency at Palazzo Monti, Brescia. Work by the artist will feature in the survey exhibition Impressionism: A World View; Yukhnovich’s painting will be exhibited in galleries dedicated to ‘Contemporary Neo-Impressionists’, on view at The Nassau County Museum of Art, NY, from 19 March–10 July 2022. In 2023 Yukhnovich will be the first artist to take part in a new series of solo exhibitions responding to the collections of The Ashmolean, Oxford, titled Ashmolean NOW. Flora Yukhnovich:Thirst Trap continues at Victoria Miro, London until 26 March 2022.

Phong H. Bui

Photo of Phong Bui taken by Nicola Delorme
Photo by Nicola Delorme
Artist, writer, and independent curator Phong H. Bui is Publisher and Artistic Director of the Brooklyn Rail, the River Rail, Rail Editions, and Rail Curatorial Projects. Among many other awards, Bui received The Dorothea and Leo Rabkin Prize for Arts Writers in 2017, was the recipient of an Honorary Doctorate from University of the Arts in 2020, and the American Academy of Arts and Letters’ Award for Distinguished Service to the Arts in 2021.

The Rail has a tradition of ending our conversations with a poetry reading, and we’re fortunate to have Erica Hunt reading.

Erica Hunt

A photograph of poet Erica Hunt, smiling outdoors in a blue shirt.
Photo by Erika Kapin
Poet and scholar Erica Hunt is the author of numerous publications including VERONICA: A Suite in X Parts (selva oscura press, 2019) and Jump the Clock (Nightboat, 2020), a collection spanning from the 1980s to the present. With Dawn Lundy Martin, she is co-editor of Letters to the Future: Radical Writing by Black Women from Kore Press. Hunt has received awards from the Foundation for Contemporary Art, the Fund for Poetry, and the Djerassi Foundation and is a past fellow of Duke University/the University of Capetown Program in Public Policy.

❤️ 🌈 We'd like to thank the The Terra Foundation for American Art for making these daily conversations possible, and for their support of our growing archive.