Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Happy Birthday Philip Guston



Philip Guston began his career in the 1930s as a Social Realist, when it was the politically and artistically correct thing to be. In the early '50s he turned to Abstract Expressionism -- belatedly, but it was still fashionable enough to give him a modest reputation, appropriate to his modest, domesticated version of Abstract Expressionism. In the late '60s he began to paint the unfashionable funky-gruesome figures which finally carried his reputation over the top, more for their weird silliness than their odd prettiness (evident in the "pink eye" and brushiness with which many were painted). Some people deplored his abandonment of Abstract Expressionism -- the new orthodoxy -- but many others lionized him as a true avant-garde hero. Was it not the essence of avant-garde rebellion to rebel against what had become old avant-garde art?

Untitled", (book, ball and shoe), 1971. Oil on paper, 50.2 x 70.5 cm., 19 3/4 x 27 3/4 inches. (T004167) ©The Estate of Philip Guston. Courtesy: Timothy Taylor Gallery, London.

Guston had the guts to change, to make it genuinely new. Refusing to toe the current art party line, his fresh maverick imagery -- "fresh" in every sense of the word -- made him an outcast, but also brought him notoriety. He had the credibility of those who break set: he showed that it was still possible to perform the defamiliarization miracle -- restore the unfamiliarity and inexplicability that life and art have before they are legitimated and sanctioned by explication and explanation -- that gave avant-garde art its credibility in the first place.Guston claimed he moved away from "purity" toward "narrative" -- really back to the psychosocial narrative art he began with (however deeper his sense of the psychosocial). Some people deplored his abandonment of Abstract Expressionism -- the new orthodoxy -- but many others lionized him as a true avant-garde hero. Was it not the essence of avant-garde rebellion to rebel against what had become old avant-garde art?  Kuspit, History of Art. 






Seventy-odd drawings were published after Guston’s death in the book Philip Guston’s Poor Richard, which chronicled the life of Nixon from childhood through to his famous visit to China in 1972. These satirical drawings came after Guston’s notorious stylistic break with Abstract Expressionism in the mid 1960s, when he moved towards his recognisably crude figurations of thick, cartoonish men and hooded Klansmen. Guston agonised over the state of global politics, lamenting the horrors of the Vietnam War and questioning his role as an artist in such troubled times. (Apollo Magazine) 

Philip Guston: June 27, 1913 - June 7, 1989


1 comment:

Carla Ives said...

I didn't know the name of the artist who did the 60s cartoons, but I DO remember them, especially the Nixon drawings. I'm not sure I understand the rest of the work very well. That's probably because I don't have an artistic background. So I will remember Mr. Guston for his imaginative cartoons of the time I grew up in.