Two of my favorite people in the world revere Philip Guston — and one recently gifted me with a biography of him by Guston’s only child, Musa Mayer. This was a revelation for me, particularly when the Guston description of visual art so closely describes that of written art. Says the daughter, quoting the father
the canvas began to appear to one American painter after another as an arena in which to act — rather than as a space in which to reproduce, re-design, analyze, or ‘express’ an object, actual or imagined. What was to go on the canvas was not a picture but an event
What an exact description of the best writing: not a description or reproduction or analysis, but an entirely fresh and new event in words.
Let me also say that while my friend artist Paul Dodd gave me this book, Night Studio, my friend Jake in Toronto let on that he once was in the possession of some of Guston’s old tubes of paints. When I inquired about this to Jake, hoping I could maybe procure some of the paint for Paul, Jake said that he, sadly, used up the paint himself (Jake is also a painter.)
And whereas I tend to favor Guston’s earlier abstract painting both Paul and Jake favor his later work: writes Jake Boone:
I love his later paintings partly because he really risked it all, in a way- lots of critics piled on him for leaving abstraction (DeKooning had a nice quote saying something like, “we’re not on all on a team, you know” (how Guston wasn’t betraying the Abstract Expressionists). And in a way Guston went back to where he started, with his work for the WPA. Maybe more than the Klan paintings, I really like the studio paintings- evokes a quiet loneliness working late at night…
No wonder Paul and Jake are my friends: they both think alike, and they both concur that Guston’s late paintings should in no way be held back from the public in 2020 or 2021 due to ‘concern’ over Guston’s expressions about the Klu Klux, Klan — but instead be widely shared for this. Guston was born Goldstein; his family escaped anti-Semitic Europe and his sensibility is that of the persecuted minority. SHAME ON YOU BAD GALLERIES!