ArtReview | “Pictures Girls Make”: A Genre of Appearance

November 15, 2023

Jonathan Griffin

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This exhibition’s critical opening salvo—and its most direct—arrives in the form of its title, which refers to a comment by Willem de Kooning, supposedly hurled at his portraitist wife, Elaine. Portraits, he apparently declared, are "pictures girls make." The stupidity of the comment highlights the masculine self-absorption of Abstract Expressionism, except, as curator Alison M. Gingeras concedes in the footnotes of the exhibition guide, de Kooning probably never did say that. Instead, it’s Elaine’s choice of words: "Bill always thought that portraits were pictures that girls made."

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