This article describes Philip Guston (1913-1980) as an “artist’s artist” whose “deceptively simple subjects and emphatic brush strokes” influenced many painters of our era.
… Part of the reason he is embraced by artists in the current moment is that he stood up to the bullies in the art world who wanted art to be a certain way — notably writers like Clement Greenberg… who thought that serious, modern painting should be abstract…
“I got sick and tired of all that Purity!” he said in a 1977 interview, referring to abstraction. “Wanted to tell Stories!”
Along with the return of figures and the hoods — now drawn in a crude, cartoonish fashion that shocked even his peers in the early ’70s — Guston continued to paint ordinary objects: shoes, cans, clocks and bricks that asserted both the materiality and everydayness of painting. The critic Harold Rosenberg called his later work “a liberation from detachment” — which is to say, it was unafraid to address messy politics, the body, failure, or the changes an artist goes through in his lifetime.
It seems worth noting that what shocked Guston’s peers in the ‘70s wasn’t what he drew, but how he drew it.
(Martha Schwendener, “Why Philip Guston Can Still Provoke Such Furor, and Passion,” NYTimes, 10-4-20)
(c) 2020 JMN