Willem de Kooning, ‘What Abstract Art Means to Me’ (1951)
About twenty-four years ago, I knew a man in Hoboken, a German who used to visit us in the Dutch Seaman’s Home. As far as he could remember, he was always hungry in Europe. He found a place in Hoboken where bread was sold a few days old— all kinds of bread: French bread, German bread, Italian bread, Dutch bread, Greek bread, American bread and particularly Russian black bread. He bought big stacks of it for very little money, and let it get good and hard and then he crumbled it and spread it on the floor in his flat and walked on it as on a soft carpet. I lost sight of him, but found out many years later that one of the other fellows met him again around 86th street. He had become some kind of Jugend Bund leader and took boys and girls to Bear Mountain on Sundays. He is still alive but quite old and is now a Communist. I could never figure him out, but now when I think of him, all that I can remember is that he had a very abstract look on his face.