Hearne Pardee, Katherine Bradford, Gaby Collins-Fernandez, Stephen Ellis, David Humphrey, David Rhodes and Jennifer Riley discuss Philip Guston, Painter, 1957–1967 at Hauser & Wirth, New York, on view through July 29, 2016.
In an enlightening and lively discussion, the panelists consider Guston's work in a range of contexts. Gaby Collins-Fernandez comments: "I’ve been trying to imagine what it felt like for those to be the last things Guston had made, the freshest and newest! Very intense and strange. Looking at them, I got the sense of someone trying to make emotional room in painting from physical, spatial terms that weren’t available in the dominant painting discourse of the time. I read the shadows and the way the forms feel heavy and connected to gravity in terms of a desire to understand forms in relation to recognizable physical-causal dynamics — to make abstract, all-over mark-making compete with gravity, light, and the kinds of environmental conditions that stuff, matter, and people have to deal with, outside of blank, white surfaces."
Schwabsky writes that the "show really encompasses three distinct stages in his career. Early in the 1950s, his painterly touch was often considered a bit refined compared with some of his more swashbuckling colleagues. In the late 1950s and early ’60s, when this exhibition picks up the story, Guston’s mark starts to look blunter, more declarative; the paintings acquire a greater sense of the 'objectness' of things. They are richly colored, with awkward, hard-won forms that clearly exhibit what Guston once called 'an infighting in painting itself.' Then, in the mid-’60s, comes a reduction of color to mostly shades of gray, with loose, almost blowsy brushstrokes massing together to form simple, nebulous shapes. Finally come the drawings already mentioned, with their nearly zero-degree mark-making."
Kalm notes that Guston "was an essential member of the New York painting community, achieving major institutional and critical recognition during the 1950s. Despite this success, in the late 1950s he began questioning many of the propositions of Abstract Expressionism with which he’d become associated. Organized by Paul Schimmel, this selection of 36 paintings and 53 drawings, traces the development of Guston’s work during this transitional period from abstraction to the beginnings of his iconic figurative works."
Quilter notes "When Hartigan had used oil paint in the 1950s in New York her ideas about colour were articulated by the texture of the paint and her brushstrokes. You couldn’t speak of a white or red without noticing her application of it, and the emotion was in the effort; there is often the sense you are looking at the traces of a fight. In Baltimore, Hartigan started to experiment with washes of watercolour, and black outlines. The effect seemed effortless, even casual. The colours glow, more gas than solid ... Hartigan’s pleasure in perceiving colour, shape and line. Her love of Matisse is obvious. "
In excerpt from his new book, Mark Rothko: from the Inside Out (Yale University Press), Christopher Rothko reflects on his father's love of music (in particular Mozart) and its influence on his paintings.
Christopher Rothko writes: "Rothko paintings, at their most affective, do engage us in a full-body experience touching all the senses. On the most basic level, we see the paintings, but if you suspend the experience at your visual receptors, you have not really seen a Rothko. Like music, Rothko paintings offer a gateway to our inner selves. They evoke a visceral reaction that in turn sparks feelings and engages our minds, one that indeed offers great riches because all can speak it. In this way, they provide a basic level of human connection that starts between the artist and the viewer, but extends to how we speak with the world around us."
Malone writes: "Each image is built of a dominant color, yet within each color there are subtle variations that maintain a shallow atmospheric depth — not enough to sink the color into a distracting illusion, but more than enough to activate its magically ambiguous relationship to the picture plane. Moreover, within each color division there are similarities in touch and density that are reprised in other parts of the painting. The canvas is less a container of discrete items and more a field of discernible yet harmonizing parts. This attention to compositional structure is what separated him from his AbEx colleagues... Opper somehow transcended the mythology of the AbEx period and almost clandestinely slipped into the more formalist designs of color field painting, while holding to a visual language that was both his own and an echo of Bonnard."
Riley writes: "Jubilee (1955), [is] the most muscular, tactile work in the Berry Campbell show. The dominant color is the orange of an established wood fire, which spreads from edge to edge out of a funnel form at the bottom of the canvas. The orange is spread thickly over undertones from umber to green, bounded by ragged edges of black that loop and rebound, as they do in many of Park’s black and white paintings of the period. Charlotte Park's use of the matte black shows an avowed debt to Goya, and it takes nothing away from the brio of her work to note that it weighs in alongside similar implementations by Kline, de Kooning, Fritz Bultman and even her husband, James Brooks. The black here also reminded me of the way Georges Rouault bounded the deep tonal areas of his paintings in a black line that is like the leading of a stained glass window."
Albers writes: "Among the most powerful in the de Young’s exhibition is SFMOMA’s 7 x 9-foot oil and charcoal Elegy to the Spanish Republic, No. 57. Here, as in all of the Elegies, rough-edged vertical black bars and ovoids scaffold a horizontal field, co-existing with areas of activated white. A charcoal line runs along the bottom. A black-on-white-on-black mostly horizontal element commands the top. Behind it in one corner is a washy cinereous patch. Surfaces are rugged, and the ponderous matte blacks feel implacable. The proportions are perfect."
Poet Bill Corbett shares his thoughts on Franz Kline with Noah Dillon.
Corbett remarks: "I think he was after the dream of the abstract painters, which was to make drawing and painting one. For these guys — for him, Philip Guston, Willem de Kooning — it was to get the immediacy of drawing, to locate the viewer in that immediacy, and then to make it happen in paint. A work like this, it seems to me, is absolutely recognizable, because it’s a clear, firsthand apprehension of a reality. That communicates to me... He also, I think, wanted to give a sense of the moment, make you feel present. As you pointed out, he used house paint and the image is now getting lost: it’s cracking, yellowing, it’s a conservator’s nightmare. In a way, I think it’s too bad that conservators feel compelled to restore this painting to what it was."
Edited by artist Brett Baker, Painters' Table highlights writing from the painting blogosphere as it is published and serves as a platform for exploring blogs that focus primarily on the subject of painting.