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."
Reed remembers his time at the New York Studio School and the effect Philip Guston's painting and teaching had on him and his work. Reed gives a fascinating first-hand account of Guston's critiques at the Studio School and the ideas he was wrestling with in his transition from abstraction to figuative painting. Guson spoke of "tradition as something that was removing us from our own lives and the world in which we lived."
Milton Resnick, who also taught at the Studio School at the time "used to describe the method and difficulties of an artist changing his or her work [as] 'soul-beating.' He said that some artists could 'beat their own souls,' but some could not, and needed someone else to do the beating for them, a friend or an enemy.
The article also details the influence of Piero della Francesca's fresco painting had on Guston's figurative work.
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."
John Seed tells the story of a drawing he once owned by Philip Guston. The drawing "Mazurki" was named after a poem by Bill Berkson. Via email Seed discusses the enigmatic drawing and the objects depicted with Berkson. "...some are generic Guston objects, but some objects in the generic-Guston modes of meta-object -- object that could be one thing and another."
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.