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Visions of Brazil: Reimagining Modernity from Tarsila to Sonia Ocula Report Visions of Brazil: Reimagining Modernity from Tarsila to Sonia 18 May 2019 : Fawz Kabra for Ocula

Bridging almost a century of Brazilian art, Visions of Brazil: Reimagining Modernity from Tarsila to Sonia at Blum & Poe in New York (30 April–22 June 2019), hosted in collaboration with Mendes Wood DM, offers a rereading of Brazilian Modernism through the works of artists practising at different times, from the 20th century through to the...

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Reiko Tomii Ocula Conversation Reiko Tomii

In 1969, Horikawa Michio, schoolteacher and member of the artist collective GUN (Group Ultra Niigata), filled out the customs paperwork to mail a one-kilogram river stone from Niigata, the proverbial 'backside of Japan', to President Nixon. In return, Horikawa received a thank you note for this 'most unusual Christmas gift'—a muted anti-war...

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Yun Hyong-keun in Venice: The Artist Behind the Paintings Ocula Report Yun Hyong-keun in Venice: The Artist Behind the Paintings 4 May 2019 : Sherry Paik for Ocula

'He was not a "political" kind of person. He just wanted to be honest and straight. But it was not easy in Korea to live like that,' writes curator Kim Inhye on artist Yun Hyong-keun. For much of his life, Yun lived in proximity to some of the most tumultuous moments in modern Korean history, from which he emerged as a pioneer of abstract...

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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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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
Head-Legs-Sea by Philip Guston contemporary artwork Philip GustonHead-Legs-Sea, 1975 Oil on canvas
141 x 228.6 cm
Hauser & Wirth
Martyr by Philip Guston contemporary artwork Philip GustonMartyr, 1978 Oil on canvas
174 x 175.9 cm
Hauser & Wirth
Communis by Philip Guston contemporary artwork Philip GustonCommunis, 1971 Oil on paper
56.5 x 75.6 cm
Hauser & Wirth

Recent Exhibitions

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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
Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, A New Way of Walking at Timothy Taylor, London
Closed
7 June–24 August 2018 Group Exhibition A New Way of Walking Timothy Taylor, London

Represented By

In Related Press

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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The two Frieze fairs in London: One for billionaires, one for up-and-coming art Related Press The two Frieze fairs in London: One for billionaires, one for up-and-coming art Whitewall Magazine : 10 October 2016

In same the week as the two Frieze fairs are taking place, no fewer than three separate French galleries launch in London. Almine Rech, who already owns galleries in Paris, Brussels and London, has opened her second, large space (500 square-meters) in the British capital. “Collectors here are more active than in Paris,” she commented....

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In Related Video

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, Chiu reviews the exhibition Philip Guston: A Painter's Forms, 1950–1979 at Hauser & Wirth Hong Kong that was on view from 29 May to 25 August 2018. Curated...

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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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