Guston at a mural in 1940.
June 27, 1913
|Died||June 7, 1980 66) (aged|
Woodstock, New York, USA
|Education||Los Angeles Manual Arts High School, Otis Art Institute|
|Known for||Painting, drawings, murals, prints|
|The Studio, City Limits, Head and Bottle, Last Piece, Zone|
|Movement||Abstract expressionism, Neoexpressionism, figurative painting, New York School|
|Awards||Associate Academician at the National Academy of Design|
|Patron(s)||David McKee, McKee Gallery|
Philip Guston ('ust' pronounced like "rust"), born Phillip Goldstein (June 27, 1913 – June 7, 1980), was a Canadian American painter, printmaker, muralist and draughtsman. Early in his five decade career, muralist David Siquieros described him as one of "the most promising painters in either the US or Mexico,"in reference to his antifascist fresco The Struggle Against Terror, which "includes the hooded figures that became a lifelong symbol of bigotry for the artist." "Guston worked in a number of artistic modes, from Renaissance-inspired figuration to formally accomplished abstraction," and is now regarded one of the "most important, powerful, and influential American painters of the last 100 years." He also frequently depicted racism, antisemitism, fascism and American identity, as well as, especially in his later most cartoonish and mocking work, the banality of evil. In 2013, Guston's painting To Fellini set an auction record at Christie's when it sold for $25.8 million.
A founding figure in the mid-century New York School movement, which established New York as the new center of the global art world, Guston's work appeared in the famed Ninth Street Show and in the avant-garde art journal It is. A Magazine for Abstract Art. By the 1960s, Guston had renounced abstract expressionism, and helped pioneer a modified form of representational art known as neo-expressionism. "Calling American abstract art 'a lie' and 'a sham,' he pivoted to making paintings in a dark, figurative style, including satirical drawings of Richard Nixon" during the Vietnam War as well as several paintings of hooded Klansmen,which Guston explained this way: “They are self-portraits … I perceive myself as being behind the hood … The idea of evil fascinated me … I almost tried to imagine that I was living with the Klan.” The paintings of Klan figures were set to be part of an international retrospective sponsored by the National Gallery of Art; the Tate Modern; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston in 2020, but in late September, the museums jointly postponed the exhibition until 2024 "until a time at which we think that the powerful message of social and racial justice that is at the center of Philip Guston's work can be more clearly interpreted.
The announcement spurred an open letter, published online by the Brooklyn Rail, and signed by more than 2,000 artists.It criticizes the postponement, and the museums' lack of courage to display or attempt to interpret Guston's work, as well as the museums' own "history of prejudice." It calls Guston's KKK themes a timely catalyst for a "reckoning" with cultural and institutional white supremacy, and argues that's why the exhibition must proceed without delay. As of October 3, 2020, however, the earlier exhibition dates have not been reinstated.
An early activist, in 1932, the 18-year-old Guston produced an indoor mural with artist Reuben Kadish in an effort by the communist-affiliated John Reed Club of Los Angeles to fundraise money in support of the defendants in the Scottsboro Boys Trial, nine Black teenagers falsely accused of a rape in Alabama and sentenced to death."The mural was then defaced by local police forces, organized into violent anti-communist Red Squads. The subsequent court ruling found no fault on the part of L.A. police, even though irreversible damage was sustained to many works of art.
In 1934, Philip Goldstein (as Guston was then known), 1,000-square-foot (93 m2) mural on a wall in the former summer palace of the Emperor Maximilian in the state capital of Morelia. They produced the impressive The Struggle Against Terror, whose antifascist themes were clearly influenced by the work of David Siqueiros. A two-page review in Time magazine quoted Siqueiros's description of them: "the most promising painters in either the US or Mexico." In Mexico he also met and spent time with Frida Kahlo and husband Diego Rivera.[ citation needed ]and artist Reuben Kadish joined poet and friend Jules Langsner on a trip to Mexico, where they were commissioned to paint a
In 1934–35, Guston and Kadish also completed a mural that remains to this day at City of Hope Medical Center, a tuberculosis hospital at the time, located in Duarte, California.[ citation needed ]
In September 1935, at 22 years of age, he moved to New York where he worked as an artist in the WPA program during the Great Depression. In 1937, he married artist and poet Musa McKim, whom he first met at Otis, and they collaborated on several WPA murals. During this period his work included strong references to Renaissance painters such as Piero della Francesca, Paolo Uccello, Masaccio, and Giotto. He was also influenced by American Regionalists and Mexican mural painters. [ citation needed ]In 1938 he painted a post office mural in the US post office in Commerce, Georgia, entitled Early Mail Service and the Construction of Railroads, and in 1944, he completed a mural for the Social Security building in Washington, D.C.
In the 1950s, Guston achieved success and renown as a first-generation abstract expressionist,although he preferred the term New York School. During this period his paintings often consisted of blocks and masses of gestural strokes and marks of color floating within the picture plane as seen in his painting Zone, 1953–1954. These works, with marks often grouped toward the center of the composition, recall the "plus and minus" compositions by Piet Mondrian or the late Nymphea canvases by Monet.
Guston used a relatively limited palette favoring black and white, grays, blues and reds. It was a palette that would remain evident in his later work despite Guston's attempts to expand his palette and reintroduce abstraction to his work, late in life, as evidenced in some of his untitled work from 1980 that has more blues and yellows.
In 1967, Guston moved to Woodstock, New York. He was increasingly frustrated with abstraction and began painting representationally again, but in a personal, cartoonish manner."It disappointed many when he returned to figuration with aplomb, painting mysterious images in which cartoonish-looking cups, heads, easels, and other visions were depicted against vacant beige backgrounds. People whispered behind his back: "He’s out of his mind, and this isn’t art,” curator Michael Auping said. “He could have ruined his reputation, and some people said he did.” The first exhibition of these new figurative paintings was held in 1970 at the Marlborough Gallery in New York. It received scathing reviews from most of the art establishment. Memorably, New York Times art critic Hilton Kramer ridiculed Guston's new style in an article entitled "A Mandarin Pretending to Be a Stumblebum", referring to "mandarin" in the sense of an influential figure and "stumblebum" meaning a clumsy person. He called the act of changing styles an "illusion" and an "artifice". The initial reaction of Robert Hughes, critic for Time magazine, who later changed his views, was put into a scathing review entitled "Ku Klux Komix".
According to Musa Mayer's biography of her father in Night Studio, the painter Willem de Kooning was one of the few who instantly understood the importance of these paintings, telling Guston at the time that they were "about freedom."Cherries III from 1976, held in the collection of the Honolulu Museum of Art, is an example of his late style representational paintings. Although cherries are a mundane subject, their spiky stems can be a metaphor for the crudeness and brutality of modern life.
As a result of the poor reception of his new figurative style, Guston isolated himself even more in Woodstock, far from the art world that had so utterly misunderstood his art.
In 1960, at the peak of his activity as an abstractionist, Guston said, "There is something ridiculous and miserly in the myth we inherit from abstract art. That painting is autonomous, pure and for itself, therefore we habitually analyze its ingredients and define its limits. But painting is 'impure'. It is the adjustment of 'impurities' which forces its continuity. We are image-makers and image-ridden."From 1968 onward, after moving away from abstraction, he created a lexicon of images such as Klansmen, light bulbs, shoes, cigarettes and clocks. In late 2009, the McKee gallery, Guston's long-time dealer, mounted a show revealing that lexicon in 49 small oil paintings on panel painted between 1969 and 1972 that had never been publicly displayed.
A catalogue raisonné of the artist's work was compiled by the Guston Foundation in 2013, coinciding with recent scholarly interest that explored the periods he spent in Italy.
In the fall of 2020, Philip Guston Now, a long-planned traveling retrospective of Guston's work, which included 24 of the Klan paintings,was postponed until 2024 by the traveling show's four sponsoring institutions: the National Gallery of Art; the Tate Modern; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. In a joint press release issued by the museums, they wrote "The racial justice movement that started in the U.S. and radiated to countries around the world, in addition to challenges of a global health crisis, have led us to pause," explaining that the international tour already rescheduled because of the coronavirus was best delayed “until a time at which we think that the powerful message of social and racial justice … can be more clearly interpreted.” Public response led to a "deluge of criticism from inside the art world," as well as major articles in New York Magazine , the New York Times , CNN, Artforum , Tablet, and the Wall Street Journal, among other publications.
The most scathing response was collective, and organized in an open letter, published online by the Brooklyn Rail. The letter featured a "list of signatories [that] reads like a roll call of the most accomplished American artists alive: old and young, white and Black, local and expat, painters and otherwise," including Matthew Barney, Nicole Eisenman, Charles Gaines, Ellen Gallagher, Wade Guyton, Rachel Harrison, Joan Jonas, Julie Mehretu, Adrian Piper, Pope.L, Martin Puryear, Amy Sillman, Lorna Simpson, Henry Taylor, and Christopher Williams."Strongly criticizing the museums' lack of courage to display the work, attempt to interpret it, or come to terms with the institutions' own "history of prejudice," the signers unanimously described the exhibition as a timely prompt for a "reckoning" — writing that's why it must proceed as scheduled. As of October 3, 2020, more than 2,000 artists had signed the letter, but the exhibition organizers did not respond until they rescheduled the exhibition for dates beginning in 2022.
Guston was a lecturer and teacher at a number of universities, and served as an artist-in-residence at the School of Art and Art History at the University of Iowafrom 1941 to 1945. He then served an artist-in-residence at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri until 1947. He continued with his teaching at New York University and at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn and, from 1973 to 1978, he conducted a monthly graduate seminar at Boston University.
Among Guston's students were two graduates of the University of Iowa, painters Stephen Greene (1917–1999)and Fridtjof Schroder (1917–1990), as well as Ken Kerslake (1930–2007), who attended the Pratt Institute. Rosemary Zwick was a student at Iowa. Among those who attended his graduate seminars at Boston University were painter Gary Komarin (1951–) and new media artist Christina McPhee (1954–).
He was also posthumously elected to the National Academy of Design as an Associate Academician.
The child of Ukrainian Jewish parents who escaped persecution by immigrating to Canada from Odessa, Guston was born in Montreal in 1913, and moved to Los Angeles in 1919.The family were aware of the regular Ku Klux Klan activities against Jews, blacks and others which took place across California. In 1923, possibly owing to persecution or the difficulty in securing income, his father hanged himself in the shed, and the young boy found the body.
Guston’s interest in drawing led his mother to enroll him in a correspondence course from the Cleveland School of Cartooning.In 1927, at the age of 14, Guston began painting, and enrolled in the Los Angeles Manual Arts High School where he met Jackson Pollock, who became a life-long friend. The two studied under Frederick John de St. Vrain Schwankovsky and were introduced to European modern art, Eastern philosophy, theosophy and mystic literature. The pair later published a paper opposing the high school's emphasis on sports over art, which led to expulsions, although Pollock eventually returned and graduated.
Apart from his high school education and a one-year scholarship at the Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles,which left him dissatisfied, Guston remained a largely self-taught artist, influenced, among others by Italian painter Giorgio de Chirico, whom Guston repeatedly acknowledged throughout his career. He died that year at the age of 66, of a heart attack, in Woodstock, New York.
In "Cat and Girl versus Contemporary Art," part of the Cat and Girl webcomic series, author Dorothy Gambrell critiques the difficulty and purpose of finding the meaning behind art using Guston's iconic Head and Bottle painting.
In May 2013, Christie's set an auction record for the artist's work To Fellini, which sold for US$25.8 million.
Abstract expressionism is a post–World War II art movement in American painting, developed in New York in the 1940s. It was the first specifically American movement to achieve international influence and put New York City at the center of the western art world, a role formerly filled by Paris. Although the term "abstract expressionism" was first applied to American art in 1946 by the art critic Robert Coates, it had been first used in Germany in 1919 in the magazine Der Sturm, regarding German Expressionism. In the United States, Alfred Barr was the first to use this term in 1929 in relation to works by Wassily Kandinsky.
Abstract Impressionism is an art movement that originated in New York City, in the 1940s. It involves the painting of a subject such as real-life scenes, objects, or people (portraits) in an Impressionist-style, but with an emphasis on varying measures of abstraction. The paintings are often painted en plein air, an artistic style involving painting outside with the landscape directly in front of the artist. The movement works delicately between the lines of pure abstraction and the allowance of an impression of reality in the painting.
Willem de Kooning was a Dutch-American abstract expressionist artist. He was born in Rotterdam and moved to the United States in 1926, becoming an American citizen in 1962. In 1943, he married painter Elaine Fried.
The New York School was an informal group of American poets, painters, dancers, and musicians active in the 1950s and 1960s in New York City. They often drew inspiration from surrealism and the contemporary avant-garde art movements, in particular action painting, abstract expressionism, jazz, improvisational theater, experimental music, and the interaction of friends in the New York City art world's vanguard circle.
Jack Tworkov was an American abstract expressionist painter.
Hans Hofmann was a German-born American painter, renowned as both an artist and teacher. His career spanned two generations and two continents, and is considered to have both preceded and influenced Abstract Expressionism. Born and educated near Munich, he was active in the early twentieth-century European avant-garde and brought a deep understanding and synthesis of Symbolism, Neo-impressionism, Fauvism, and Cubism when he emigrated to the United States in 1932. Hofmann's painting is characterized by its rigorous concern with pictorial structure and unity, spatial illusionism, and use of bold color for expressive means. The influential critic Clement Greenberg considered Hofmann's first New York solo show at Peggy Guggenheim’s Art of This Century in 1944 as a breakthrough in painterly versus geometric abstraction that heralded abstract expressionism. In the decade that followed, Hofmann's recognition grew through numerous exhibitions, notably at the Kootz Gallery, culminating in major retrospectives at the Whitney Museum of American Art (1957) and Museum of Modern Art (1963), which traveled to venues throughout the United States, South America, and Europe. His works are in the permanent collections of major museums around the world, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Tate Modern, Germanisches Nationalmuseum, National Gallery of Art, and Art Institute of Chicago.
Lyrical abstraction is either of two related but distinct trends in Post-war Modernist painting:
Albert Kotin belonged to the early generation of New York School Abstract Expressionist artists whose artistic innovation by the 1950s had been recognized across the Atlantic, including in Paris. The New York School Abstract Expressionism, represented by Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline, and others became a leading art movement of the post-World War II era.
[The] 9th Street Art Exhibition of Paintings and Sculpture is the official title artist Franz Kline hand-lettered onto the poster he designed for the Ninth Street Show(May 21-June 10, 1951). Now considered historic, the artist-led exhibition marked the formal debut of Abstract Expressionism, and the first American art movement with international influence. The School of Paris, long the headquarters of the global art market, typically launched new movements, so there was both financial and cultural fall-out when all the excitement was suddenly emanating from New York. The post-war New York avant-garde, artists like Willem de Kooning and Jackson Pollock, would soon become "art stars," commanding large sums and international attention. The Ninth Street Show marked their "stepping-out," and that of nearly 75 other artists, including Helen Frankenthaler, Joan Mitchell, Grace Hartigan, Robert de Niro, Sr., Philip Guston, Elaine de Kooning, Lee Krasner, Franz Kline, Ad Reinhardt, David Smith, Milton Resnick, Robert Motherwell, Barnett Newman and many others who were then mostly unknown to an art establishment that ignored experimental art without a ready market.
Reuben Kadish was an American artist, specializing as a sculptor, draughtsman, muralist, painter, and printmaker. In his later career he also taught art history and sculpture in New York City.
Norman Wilfred Lewis was an American painter, scholar, and teacher. Lewis, who was African-American and of Bermudian descent, was associated with abstract expressionism, and used representational strategies to focus on black urban life and his community's struggles.
Alfred Julio Jensen was an abstract painter. His paintings are often characterized by grids of brightly colored triangles, circles or squares, painted in thick impasto. Conveying a complex web of ideas, often incorporating calligraphy or numerical systems, they are frequently referred to as "concrete" abstract art. After his death in 1981, the Guggenheim organized a major retrospective of his work, having held his solo exhibition there in 1961.
John Levee was an American abstract expressionist painter who had worked in Paris since 1949. His father was M. C. Levee.
Mercedes Matter was an American painter, draughtswoman, and writer. She was a founding member of the American Abstract Artists, and the Founder and Dean Emeritus of the New York Studio School.
20th-century Western painting begins with the heritage of late-19th-century painters Vincent van Gogh, Paul Cézanne, Paul Gauguin, Georges Seurat, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, and others who were essential for the development of modern art. At the beginning of the 20th century, Henri Matisse and several other young artists including the pre-cubist Georges Braque, André Derain, Raoul Dufy and Maurice de Vlaminck, revolutionized the Paris art world with "wild", multi-colored, expressive landscapes and figure paintings that the critics called Fauvism. Matisse's second version of The Dance signified a key point in his career and in the development of modern painting. It reflected Matisse's incipient fascination with primitive art: the intense warm color of the figures against the cool blue-green background and the rhythmical succession of the dancing nudes convey the feelings of emotional liberation and hedonism.
Earl Cavis Kerkam, according to Willem de Kooning, Philip Guston, Mark Rothko, George Spaventa and Esteban Vicente “was one of the finest painters to come out of America.” Gerald Norland wrote at the Earl Kerkam Memorial Exhibition in 1966:
Stephen Greene was an American artist known for his abstract paintings and in the 1940s his social realist figure paintings.
Robert Richenburg was an abstract expressionist artist based in New York City, whose paintings were widely acclaimed in the 1950s and 1960s. While a student of Hans Hofmann, Richenburg exhibited at the Museum of Non-Objective Painting in 1950. The following year, he participated in the historic Ninth Street Art Exhibition, and subsequently taught at Pratt Institute along with Franz Kline, Adolph Gottlieb, Jack Tworkov, Philip Guston, Milton Resnick and Tony Smith. By 1961, critic Irving Sandler declared that "Richenburg emerges as one of the most forceful painters on the New York Art Scene." The Whitney Museum, the Museum of Modern Art and the Philadelphia Museum of Art, among others, purchased his work.
George McNeil was an American abstract expressionist painter.
Musa McKim Guston, née McKim, was a painter and poet. Born in Oil City, Pennsylvania, McKim spent much of her youth in Panama. During the Great Depression, she worked under the Section of Fine Arts, painting murals in public buildings, including a Post Office building in Waverly, New York. She was the wife of New York School artist Philip Guston, whom she met while attending the Otis Art Institute. In cooperation with him, she painted a mural in a United States Forest Service building in Laconia, New Hampshire, and panels which were placed aboard United States Maritime Commission ships. After her painting career, she wrote poetry, publishing her work in small literary magazines. Along with her husband and daughter, she lived in Iowa City, Iowa and New York City, eventually settling in Woodstock, New York.
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