In the mid-1970s, after skewering American political, social and cultural; mores with his work, Peter Saul (b. 1934) took aim at the art world. Saul executed a number of parody responses to Willem de Kooning’s Woman and Bicycle (1952-53, shown below). Here, Saul’sWoman With Bicycle (1976) spoofs de Kooning’s contorted female figure with distortions of his own, rendering the face as a grotesque cartoon and crowding the composition with lurid Day-Glo forms that both draw upon and satirize Surrealist and Pop styles. At once homage and attack, this painting challenges art history, even while claiming Saul’s place within it.
A leading artist among the Abstract Expressionists, Willem de Kooning never believed that abstraction and representation were mutually exclusive. As he stated: “I’m not interested in ‘abstracting’ or taking things out or reducing painting to design, form, line, and color. I paint this way because I can keep putting more things in it–drama, anger, pain, love, a figure, a horse, my ideas about space. Through your eyes it again becomes an emotion or idea.” Woman and Bicycle, one of a series of “Woman” paintings he made between 1950 and 1953, depicts a standing woman, whose form is clearly visible despite the painterly integration of her body into the surrounding field of non-objective marks. Although the female figure is one of the most traditional subjects in the history of art, the woman in de Kooning’s painting distinctly belongs to the 1950s. Her bright yellow dress, high heels, and garish smile — with a second toothy grin hanging below it like a necklace — reflect the glamorous pin-up girls and movie stars of the period.