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Sunjung Kim’s Real DMZ Project Interrogates the North and South Korea Divide Ocula Conversation Sunjung Kim’s Real DMZ Project Interrogates the North and South Korea Divide

Ongoing since 2012, the Real DMZ Project interrogates the demilitarised zone (DMZ) between North and South Korea through annual, research-based exhibitions that bring together the works of Korean and international artists. Sunjung Kim, the independent curator behind the project, conceived the idea of exploring the DMZ while curating Japanese artist...

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Sydney Lowdown: Exhibitions to See Ocula Report Sydney Lowdown: Exhibitions to See 6 Sep 2019 : Elyse Goldfinch for Ocula

The fifth edition of Sydney Contemporary will take place once again at Carriageworks between 12 and 15 September 2019, with Spring 1883 bringing together a cohort of 27 galleries from across Australia and the region to inhabit rooms at the Establishment Hotel from 11 to 14 September 2019, uniquely presenting contemporary works propped up on...

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Mark Bradford’s Call for Unity at Shanghai’s Long Museum Ocula Insight | Video Mark Bradford’s Call for Unity at Shanghai’s Long Museum 16 August 2019

Mark Bradford walks through Mark Bradford: Los Angeles Mark Bradford: Los Angeles at the Long Museum West Bund in Shanghai (27 July–13 October 2019) is the artist's largest solo exhibition to date in China. In this video for Ocula, Bradford and Diana Nawi, curator of the show, walk through selected works that convey the artist's concerns with...

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Philip Guston

(1913 - 1980), Canada

Philip Guston’s practice is noted for a determination not to settle in any one established structure, but instead to continually push out the boundaries of painting. Throughout distinct periods in his career, his style developed and shifted drastically: from figurative muralist, to abstract expressionist, to artist at war between abstraction and representation, and—lastly—to cartoon realist painter.

Guston was born in Canada in 1913, his parents having fled there to escape the pogroms of Eastern Europe. Shortly after he was born, the family moved to Los Angeles where they were exposed to the violence and racism of the Ku Klux Klan. Four years later—unable to find work in his trade and struggling to make ends meet—his father hanged himself in the family’s shed. Guston was the first to find the body. These traumatising experiences, and Guston’s subsequent retreat into himself and into the world of comic books, influenced both his initial passion for drawing and the themes he would later revisit in his work.

Guston attended the same high school as Jackson Pollock, and as an adult, Pollock convinced Guston to move to New York. This move brought Guston into the fold of the New York School of painters, with whom he would develop his abstract expressionist language and establish himself as one of the great painters and thinkers of his generation. 

Guston’s formal career as an artist began with social realist murals. He collaborated with others to create politically charged murals, the first of which he completed in Los Angeles with Reuben Kadish. Guston then went to New York in the mid-1930s to work as a mural painter employed by the Works Progress Administration’s Federal Arts Project. During his career as a muralist, Guston’s influences ranged from Renaissance painters to the American Regionalists and Mexican mural painters. 

Between the early- and mid-1940s, Guston began to turn away from murals towards easel painting, experimenting with abstraction. These works were hugely successful and from the 1950s until the 1970s, he became well-known as an abstract expressionist within the New York School—a movement that included artists such as Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning

Increasingly dissatisfied with the tenets of abstract expressionism, around 1957 Guston began to push back against his initial success in that genre. He began to believe that abstract art was built around a myth that painting was pure beyond any image. But, as he saw it, painting was in fact ‘image-ridden’. 

The ten-year middle period of Guston’s career, from approximately 1957 to 1967, was marked by an oscillation between abstraction and representation, where forms began to emerge but not fully take shape. As Guston’s later figurative works became increasingly well-regarded, this middle period became seen by most scholars as merely a stepping stone to his late style. However, in its struggle between creating and obliterating the image, the period holds its own distinct importance in Guston’s oeuvre independent of what came before or after.

In 1966 and 1967, after his survey at the Jewish Museum in 1966, Guston temporarily abandoned painting and focused on drawing, creating hundreds of works on paper with charcoal and ink. These are known as his ‘pure’ drawings and emphasise a distillation of thought surrounding structure and abstraction. 

Tiring of the New York City art scene, in 1967 Guston moved to Woodstock, New York, where he would begin working on fully figurative paintings of cartoon-like figures in a palette of blues and pinks. The first exhibition of these works took place at Marlborough Gallery, New York, in 1970, where it received scathing reviews from both critics and Guston’s former abstract expressionist peers. Motifs repeated throughout this body of work included clocks, light bulbs and Klansmen. In this new use of figuration, Guston had returned to his roots as a mural painter, reflecting on the sociopolitical unease at that point in the United States’ history. Despite the initial negative criticism, he persisted. Towards the end of his life, this comic-strip style began to attract acclaim, and is now his most well-known and influential period, and hugely admired. 

Casey Carsel | Ocula | 2017
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Featured Artworks

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Untitled by Philip Guston contemporary artwork
Philip GustonUntitled, 1971 Oil on paper mounted on panel
73.7 x 101.6 cm
Hauser & Wirth
Boot by Philip Guston contemporary artwork
Philip GustonBoot, 1968 Acrylic on panel
42.2 x 49.8 cm
Hauser & Wirth
Combat I by Philip Guston contemporary artwork
Philip GustonCombat I, 1978 Oil on canvas
132.1 x 152.4 cm
Hauser & Wirth
Rug on Floor by Philip Guston contemporary artwork
Philip GustonRug on Floor, 1979 Oil on canvas
121.9 x 152.4 cm
Hauser & Wirth
Gulf by Philip Guston contemporary artwork
Philip GustonGulf, 1980 Lithograph on Arches Cover White paper with deckled edge
81.3 x 108 cm
Timothy Taylor
Easel by Philip Guston contemporary artwork
Philip GustonEasel, 1980 Lithograph on J. Barcham Green paper
50.8 x 76.2 cm
Timothy Taylor
Remains by Philip Guston contemporary artwork
Philip GustonRemains, 1980 Lithograph on Koller Transfer paper
49.5 x 75.6 cm
Timothy Taylor
Shoe Head by Philip Guston contemporary artwork
Philip GustonShoe Head, 1976 Oil on canvas
185.4 x 294.6 cm
Hauser & Wirth

Current & Recent Exhibitions

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Contemporary art exhibition, Philip Guston, Resilience: Philip Guston in 1971 at Hauser & Wirth, Los Angeles
Open Now
14 September 2019–5 January 2020 Philip Guston Resilience: Philip Guston in 1971 Hauser & Wirth, Los Angeles
Contemporary art exhibition, Philip Guston, The Last Lithographs at Timothy Taylor, New York
Closed
14 September–3 November 2018 Philip Guston The Last Lithographs Timothy Taylor, New York
Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, A New Way of Walking at Timothy Taylor, New York
Closed
29 June–27 July 2018 Group Exhibition A New Way of Walking Timothy Taylor, New York

Represented By

In Related Press

View All (5)
In Praise of Painting’s Ambiguity Related Press In Praise of Painting’s Ambiguity Hyperallergic : 27 July 2019

Shortly after my review of Amy Bennett's exhibition at Miles McEnery Gallery appeared on the Hyperallergic Weekend, I got an email from Mollye Miller, who, I later learned, is a photographer and poet living in Baltimore. In fact, she and I were published in the same little magazine, Prelude, edited by Stu Watson, but not in the same issue. But all...

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Philip Guston exhibition in Hong Kong, narrated by his daughter, looks at his abstract and figurative works Related Press Philip Guston exhibition in Hong Kong, narrated by his daughter, looks at his abstract and figurative works South China Morning Post : 19 June 2018

The show, Philip Guston: A Painter’s Forms, 1950–1979, introduces one of the main figures of American abstract expressionism through the use of an audio guide.Narrated by Guston’s daughter Musa Mayer, who is also the curator of the exhibition, the recording takes visitors through the artist’s creative periods and the rich symbolism of his work,...

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The Spirit of Painting in an Altered World Related Press The Spirit of Painting in an Altered World Hyperallergic : 12 May 2018

'A faint, beautiful memory' is how curator Norman Rosenthal described A New Spirit Then, A New Spirit Now, 1981-2018, the current show at Almine Rech Gallery on the Upper East Side. What he’s remembering, as spelled out in the exhibition’s title, is the seminal survey, A New Spirit in Painting, which opened, barely, at the Royal Academy of Arts in...

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Philip Guston’s Echoes Related Press Philip Guston’s Echoes Hyperallergic : 28 April 2018

Guston's unique sensitivity to word and image endowed his work with a cultural totality that lies at the core of his continuing influence. In perhaps the most bewildering image in the gallery, the artist has painted, in another instance of indirect self-portraiture, an arm jutting into the frame at an upward angle (we can tell it's the...

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In Video & Audio

Philip Guston exhibition at Hauser reviewed by Caroline Chiu Related Video & Audio Philip Guston exhibition at Hauser reviewed by Caroline Chiu Caroline Chiu Studio Art Reviews : 19 June 2018

Caroline Chiu is a Hong Kong based art critic and collector who has been presenting Caroline Chiu Studio Art Reviews with Hong Kong radio station RTHK4 since 2005.In this podcast episode, published in a collaboration between Chiu and Ocula, the Hong Kong based critic reviews the exhibition Philip Guston: A Painter's Forms, 1950–1979 at Hauser...

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Philip Guston, Crescent, 1976 Related Video & Audio Philip Guston, Crescent, 1976 Hauser & Wirth : 18 May 2018

The last five years of Philip Guston’s life gave rise to some of his most complex and compelling pictures. Crescent, painted in 1976, is a portrait of Musa McKim, Guston’s wife, whom he began to paint with increasing frequency from the mid-1970s onwards.Musa Mayer introduces the late work by her father, to be included in Hauser & Wirth’s...

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