I’ve must admit I wasn’t too familiar with Philip Guston’s work until the big retrospective at the Met a few years ago, but have become a huge fan since. If you haven’t read Musa Mayer’s biography of her father, Night Studio it definitely a great read. Anyway, as with Nick Stillman in his recent essay in The Nation, I find that what draws me to Guston is his movement between figuration, abstraction, back to figuration. The freedom not to be stuck in a style, a motif, or direction. A process unfolding from personal dictates or needs. It goes without saying that the circumstances of the art world are much different now than they were back in the ’60s and ’70s. More than at any other time today artists have a freedom to choose their own direction, their own materials, process, etc., some have called it a free for all. However, there is a pressure to settle on a style, develop a personal brand, and stick to it. This satisfies both the expectations of the market and helps prevent a type of emotional paralysis in the face of an overwhelming array of decisions and choices by providing a sense of direction. I think it’s an unreasonable expectation for artists to remain committed to a certain style for their entire career. First, with a few exceptions, I don’t think anyone is naturally that obsessive or rigid. Second, it would be no fun to be that rigid. For me it is fun to jump around between abstract, figure, landscape, etc. It helps me maintain that element of play necessary to my own work, which is not to say its not work, it just has to be playful.
Anyway, check out Nick Stillman’s review of the Guston exhibit at the Morgan Library and Museum through August 31. Here’s a brief excerpt:
Tags: abstract, de kooning, abstract contemporary art, contemporary art, art book, glenwood fine art
If, like in Clement Greenberg’s ’50s, art critics were still considered arbitrators, I would argue that Philip Guston’s art got better as he got older. His transformation late in his career from a successful and comparatively polite Abstract Expressionist into a conjurer of cartoonish tableaux of internal unrest and lowbrow humor garnished with uncomfortable personal admissions was an act of bravery, especially given the public’s lack of enthusiasm for his ribald new direction. As long as he is remembered, Guston’s need to reintroduce concrete subject matter into his art will be his legacy. This is ground firmly trod on by a gaggle of essayists, biographers, critics and friends of the artist; there’s no shortage of recent literature on Guston’s late work that praises it as deliciously, perfectly, bathetic–work that never descends into the flippancy that tends to mar the majority of art that is expressly funny, explicitly political or both.
Honestly, though, it’s difficult for me to think about Guston from an art critic’s perspective. Among the countless explanations of Guston’s return to figuration, the one I most agree with was pronounced by an artist, Willem de Kooning: “It’s about freedom.” Guston’s black humor, his exploitation of the absurd and grotesque, his merger of the political with the personal and his spirit of defiance in the face of complacency and aging is something to be appreciated on a gut level. You get it, or you don’t. I’m not suggesting that Guston’s work is anti-intellectual or even particularly populist. What I’m saying is that Guston’s work–especially from 1970-1980–is borne of intuition and inexorability, qualities that can be alienating as often as they are inspiring. [Read more...]
June 18, 2008 No Comments
Tyler Green at Modern Art Notes has just finished his week long review/discussion of the Amy Sillman show currently at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. We can’t
gerhard richter, ocean park, turner, Paint, howard hodgkin, tyler green
Amy Sillman layers paint over layers of paint the way Richard Diebenkorn did. Sometimes she loads up her brush like Park, Bischoff or other Bay Area School types. She shmears wet paint across a canvas like Gerhard Richter. Sometimes she dabs it on almost tentatively, as Guston did in his great Turneresque abstractions.
Then there are the compositions themselves. Her diagonals reject a painter’s tendency to grid, the same way Diebenkorn’s did circa Ocean Park. This one recalls Lee Bontecou’s delicate, small hanging sculptures from 1967. A green, red and gray section on the right-hand side of I (2008, below) seems informed by those atmospheric Gustons. The vaguely cartoony shapes in several of the paintings here (including this one) abstract Carroll Dunham’s body parts. And Sillman’s stitching together of seemingly disparate swatches of sometimes garish color and pattern recall 1980s David Hockney. Sillman’s rejection of a traditional, harmonious, palette reminds me of of abstraction from about that period, including Howard Hodgkin, Jonathan Lasker and Thomas Nozkowski.
April 18, 2008 2 Comments
Carroll Dunham. (American, born 1949). Age of Rectangles. 1983-85. Casein, dry pigment, vinyl paint, casein emulsion, color pencil, charcoal, carbon pencil, and ink on rosewood, birch, ash, and mahogany, three panels and one inset, 7′ 8″ x 58″ (233.7 x 147.3 cm). Gift of Emily Fisher Landau. © 2008 Carroll Dunham. www.moma.org
Today is a Carroll Dunham day. After coming across Sharon Butler’s post on Two Coats of Paint I started trolling around and came across this painting on moma’s site. Dunham’s work is a lot of fun to look at and I can spend a long time with his work. His use of materials is fascinating and inspires me to push and develop my own work. It’s also funny that the title of this painting alludes to my point yesterday when describing my impressions of the Color Charts: Reinventing Color 1950 to Today currently showing at MOMA and I said that the dominate forms seem to be rectangles, squares, or pixels.
Tags: organic shapes, two coats, robert mangold, post-minimalism, abstract composition, Philip Guston
American painter. He completed a BA at Trinity College, Hartford, CT, in 1971 and later settled in New York. Initially influenced by Post-Minimalism, process art and conceptual art, he was soon attracted to the tactility and allusions to the body in the work of Brice Marden, Robert Mangold and Robert Ryman. Spurred on by the revival of interest in Surrealism in the 1970s, Dunham began to make abstract, biomorphic paintings reminiscent of the work of Arshile Gorky and André Masson, executed with a comic twist enhanced by lurid colours and the suggestion of contemporary psychedelia. In the 1980s he began to paint on wood veneer and rose to prominence in the context of a broader return to painting in the period. Age of Rectangles (1983–5; New York, MOMA) is a highly abstract composition of differing forms, symptomatic of his work at this time: geometric sketches co-exist with eroticized organic shapes while the forms of the wood veneer show through the surface of the paint to suggest surging forces. Towards the end of the 1980s he began to move towards single, dominating motifs; wave-like forms were particularly common. In the Integrated Paintings series he applied paint-covered balls and chips to the surface of the canvas to further develop the sense of organic life. Mound A (1991; priv. col.) is typical of Dunham’s work of the early 1990s in which his forms began to resemble mounds of live matter, covered in orifices. Around 1993 his paintings began to feature schematic, cartoon figures which suggest the influence of Philip Guston.
From Grove Art Online
© 2007 Oxford University Press
March 26, 2008 1 Comment