Philip Guston Contradictions

I began to make a post about my visit to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, but lost it half way through for some reason. But just one artist will do for now. Philip Guston.

Amy introduced me to him. I am intrigued by the man, his place in the abstract expressionist world. When I walked up the stairs at the museum today there was a Guston, much more impressive than the web stuff!


The one I really liked, and the first painting that really drew me today was one called The Tormentors:


I know there is a story about Klu Klux Klan theme (the link is to the site where I found the image), but I liked it because of the way it looked. Both from a distance, where it had some of the majesty of a Hotere, and close up, where the texture was remarkably polished and smooth, like satin.

This is strange as I am drawn to this quote from an article Amy gave me: Philip Guston Talking 1978 :

In a recent article which contrasts the work of a colour-field painter with mine, the painter is quoted as saying “A painting is made with coloured paint on a surface and what you see is what you see.” This popular and melancholy cliche is so remote from my own concern. In my experience a painting is not made with colours and paint at all. I don’t know what a painting is; who knows what sets off even the desire to paint? It might be things, thoughts, a memory, sensations, which have nothing to do directly with painting itself. They can come from anything and anywhere, a trifle, some detail observed, wondered about and, naturally from the previous painting. The painting is not on a surface, but on a plane which is imagined. It moves in a mind. It is not there physically at all. It is an illusion, a piece of magic, so what you see is not what you see.

I suppose the same thing was true in the Renaissance. There is Leonardo da Vinci’s famous statement that painting is a thing of the mind. I think that’s right. I think that the idea of the pleasure of the eye is not merely limited, it isn’t even possible. Everything means something. Anything in life or in art, any mark you make has meaning and the only question is, what kind of meaning

Here is a study for “The Tormentors” from MOMA



Philip Guston – art exhibition – Brief Article
ArtForum, Feb, 2001 by Francine Koslow Miller

by Dorothy Koppelman


Woodstock, New York
January 29, 1965
Interviewer: Joseph S. Trovato

From the Abstract to the Figurative: Philip Guston’s Stony Path
By Martin Hentschel
Under the Spell of Mondrian’s Paradigm

One more picture – from ’54 – off ebay:


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