29 May 2013


The recently-launched Philip Guston Catalogue Raisonné project has a tumblr, which appears to be a documentation of works gathered for the pending publication. Uploaded acrhronolically, with images of wildly varied sizing and quality, it proves a fragmentary account of what was perhaps the wonkiest (or at least most baffling) careers in 20th-century American art.

In Night Studio: A Memoir of Philip Guston, the artist's daughter recalls the reception of Guston's late-career shift:

Not all of his friends understood. [Morton] Feldman's failure to react favorably to the new work hurt my father deeply. Their friendship never really recovered, although Morty was always on Philip's mind and in his heart; in 1977 he painted 'Friend -- to M.F.' It is a poignant image, as [art critic] Robert Storr observes, of their 'mutually regretted estrangement'; Morty's head is half turned away from the viewer.

'Why did you have to go and ruin everything?' one painter said angrily at the Marlborough opening. My mother wrote in her diary, 'P. says Lee Krasner hadn't spoken to him at the gallery; had told someone that the work was "embarrassing."'

Reportedly, one of the work's few advocates at the time was critic Harold Rosenberg, who recognized that the cartoonish jumbles of imagery not only involved a personal inventory, but was also a political response to the times. Writing in The New Yorker, Rosenberg argued, "Guston's new crudeness has, however, an important expressive function: it enables him to give a simple account of the simple-mindedness of violence."

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