Philip Guston

1913 (Montreal) / 1980 (Woodstock, NY)
Artist's gallery

Latest child of Abstract Expressionism, this childhood friend of Pollock's nonetheless contributed his final piece to the legend of the New York School by modelling, in the early 1950s, dripping, vaporous fields, drawn with short, violent brushstrokes, alternating gesture and counter-gesture in order to recreate an interplay of light and shadow, which pile up near the centre of the canvas, in bloodless lights where bleeding pinks allow themselves to be invaded by amorphous greys. Their woolly intertwining makes one speak of abstract impressionism: "The desire for direct expression became so strong, says this American Monet, that even the time needed to reach the palette beside me became too long. So I forced myself to paint without stepping back once to look at my paintings.” In 1970, however, the gentle Guston made an abrupt break with Action Poetry at its peak and declared himself a traitor to the modernist by exhibiting at the Marlborough Gallery the crude and shaggy figurative paintings he had been making in secret since 1967. In a childish style singularly close to Robert Crumb's Fritz the cat, he erases in a sharp and cutting manner open books, iron shoes and brick walls populated by hooded Klansmen...

Artist's issues

Issue 78
Issue 83

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