Yau writes that "the marvel of the exhibition [is that] — it is all done with line, drawn or in paint. Sometimes the line becomes a rounded shape (a cloud) or a circle (sun). Short horizontal strokes are words in a book or bristly hair sprouting from skinny, naked legs... This is what I love about Guston and his work. He was haunted and did not try to hide it. He had ugly feelings, and was often disappointed. He loved all kinds of things, as his collection of old irons, which frequently appear in his painting, suggests. He loved the old masters and cartoonists equally and was not afraid to bring that love into his work. All he relied on was a line. With it he painted hooded men driving around in cars, transporting corpses and art, as if there were no difference between the two. (They were his symbol for men who hide behind the cloak of dogma, which you would think we should be sick of by now but clearly aren’t.)"
As the gallery notes, the exhibition "is not a retrospective but a spontaneous celebration, attempting to expand our understanding of Guston with works which have not been widely exhibited, interspersed with some Guston classics which have been shown and reproduced all over the world. This exhibition is meant to surprise us as well as to satisfy us, marking the centenary of one of our great artists."
De Jong writes: "Guston's painting stands slightly apart from time, his own and our own. Yet within Guston's art is a continuity of formal and conceptual concerns that in retrospect makes Guston's entire career more seamless than has been stressed. The early Klan paintings from the thirties thru the dreamy figurative compositions of the forties and the abstractions of the fifties and sixties and finishing with the compositions of sleeping figures and brick walls and piles of shoes represents a continuity of pictorial vision and form and feeling that does not herald what was to come but instead quantifies for all concerned what painting had ever been capable of expressing."
Mario Naves considers the ongoing relevance and importance of observational drawing.
Naves notes that "while this grounding [in life drawing] may be obvious in the case of representational artists, with abstract artists the connection can be slippery. It is, nonetheless, there. If we ask that a painting or sculpture be an autonomous object–a thing with its own inherent vitality–it must also have some connection with the world it occupies. If we ask that a painter create a convincing illusion of a world, then it is necessary to have had an encounter with actual objects and actual space. The art critic Robert Hughes wrote that “the philosophical beauty of Mondrian’s squares and grids begins with the empirical beauty of his apple trees.” Anyone who attended the great Mondrian retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art can attest to the truth of this statement. What we learn from Mondrian is that drawing from life can inform abstract art just as it can with figurative art. It can serve as a scaffolding for art which veers away from representation. Drawing is an armature that can be overt and covert."
Gary Schwartz reflects on his time as Philip Guston's student at Washington Square College.
Schwartz remembers: "What we discussed was Guston’s big question: the relative primacy in art of abstraction versus realism. Guston insisted that abstraction came first... Our discussions always took the same turn. Guston attempted to convince me that artists like Piero della Francesca and the cave painters of Lascaux were in the first place abstractionists. True, they painted subjects, but what mattered to them most as artists was form and sheer pigment on surface."
Frank Hobbs blogs some thoughts about the painting process by the painter Philip Guston as well as a link to a video of Guston in his studio painting and discussing his work.
Hobbs quotes Guston: "Destruction of paintings is very interesting to me and almost crucial. Sometimes I find that what I destroyed five years ago I'll paint now, as if when the thing first appears you’re not ready to accept it. There's some mysterious process here that I don’t even want to understand..."
Hrag Vartanian interviews Todd Weyman of Swann Auction Galleries about Abstract Expressionist prints from Atelier 17, a print shop run by Stanley William Hayter.
Weyman notes that "Atelier 17 in New York was unique in that it brought together 'old guard' European modernists such as Miro, Ernst, Masson, Lipchitz, Hayter and others, with the vanguard of the New York abstract scene, like Rothko, Motherwell, Pollock, DeKooning..."
Kim Krause ponders Philip Guston's painting Signals, 1975, in the collection of the Cincinnati Art Museum.
Krause writes: "the painting presents a visual paradox of the artist’s inseparability of knowing/not knowing; the painting as result, sum, residue of action and real-time experience. Planning and execution become intertwined. Process and object become fused. It is a display of virtuosity and recklessness in the pursuit of truth. We become the explored and the explorer; simultaneously lost and found within the authentic."
Andrew Martin muses on the significance of painter Philip Guston's return to figuration: "Like Dylan going electric at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965, Guston’s figurative turn remains the centerpiece of his personal mythology."
Recounting both the severe critical reactions to Guston's rejection of abstraction and Guston's own attitude toward his figurative paintings Martin concludes: " ...we can appreciate Guston’s work for the brilliant, purposeful mess of contradictions that it is... In the years since... Guston’s paintings retain a striking originality of vision, but they no longer look quite so bizarre or out of place."
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.