Posts Tagged ‘Philip Guston’

P.G. At 100

Wednesday, April 3rd, 2013

Philip Guston painting "To J.S." 1977

The McKee Gallery in New York represented Philip Guston when he was alive, a rather brave stance at the time. Their current show celebrates the centennial of his birth.

From the press release:
As one of the great artists of the 20th Century who is as current and relevant today, it is hard to imagine that Guston would be 100 years old this year, underlining how revolutionary and prescient his art was. His figurative paintings blew open the caveats of 60s Color Field dogmas and did not embrace the irony of the Pop culture. Guston followed a solitary track: from doing a comic strip as a boy, to political realism, through Abstract Expressionism, he knew how to paint and what to paint—his form and content were matched. From autobiographical to universal subjects, Guston was a humanist, an existentialist, a free man who explored all avenues of his imagination and abilities to record the human condition.

Right on. Long live Philip Guston.

Salvation

Monday, June 27th, 2011

Redeem Your Empties sign at Southtown Beverages in Rochester, NY

We made a point to visit the street pool today. That’s what it takes. We had only been down there once this summer. I brought my Guston book to read and finally put it down when I got to this line. “I’m not so involved with what the other guy does. You want to upset your own applecart.” Good thing I did or I’d be sunburnt.

Back in the late nineties when Margaret Explosion was was playing Friday Happy Hour at the Bug Jar Casey told about Southtown Beverage and we’ve been going there since. We only get out there a few times a year but it is always an enjoyable experience. It’s the only worthwhile establishment in Henrietta (suburb of Rochester with one of every chain restaurant or store in the world).

You drive through the building entering from the back. You open your trunk and someone takes your empties out. It helps if they’re in bags of twelve or the cases the bottles come in but they will take anything with a NY deposit. That goes for empty seltzer bottles from Wegmans and the 24 ounce Budweiser cans I find when we walk. They have have great prices on beer and “blow out’ specials on outdated beer. I picked up a case of Estrella, brewed and bottled in Barcelona with an expiration date of 5/11, for $16.99. You can stay in your car for this whole trip but I usually pull forward and park out front so I can walk back in and savor the experience with the two brothers who run the place.

Painting, Smoking, Eating

Friday, May 27th, 2011

Philip Guston "Painting, Smoking, Eating" 1973

“I don’t write. I put down my thoughts.” I love that quote from “Philip Guston: Collected Writings, Lectures, and Conversations.” Guston quotes others pretty well too like Paul Valery. “A bad poem is one that vanishes into meaning.” This book covers the same ground that Fred Lipp does in our painting classes.

Addressing the whole:
“You paint the form without looking at the form but looking at the whole.”

Locating forms:
“The form is not just executed there. It must emerge from this background or environment.”

On visible erasures:
“Erasures represent erasures of notions and of good intentions.”

Starting over:
“To paint is to start over everytime.”

Frustration:
“Frustration is one of the great things in art. Satisfaction is nothing.”

Trouble:
“You have to have trouble and contradictions. It has to be complex because life is complex, emotions are complex.”

Imagery:
“Imagery is endless. The image thing and pursuing the image is endless. It changes you. That’s the most wonderful thing. It makes you shake. the other thing I want, and what I think an artist wants, is to be baffled all the time. Baffled, puzzled, new problems. Problem. A terrible word. I don’t mean problem. Baffled. To become dumb. Innocent – how?”

Creation:
“Real art makes you shake. Let’s not kid ourselves. Creation is force. It’s a power. It’s not a craft. It’s a power and a force and everybody has that force. If you don’t open yourself up to this power then get out.”

Mother Load

Thursday, May 26th, 2011

Three recent Philip Guston books

Musa Meyer, Philip Guston’s daughter, wrote an engrossing but brutal memoir about her experience growing up with an artist whose first priority was his work. The critic, novelist and poet Ross Feld wrote a beautiful book about his friendship with the artist and the art itself. Both of these both books brought more depth to the earthshaking experience of standing in front of his paintings.

So I snatched a few more books, “Philip Guston’s Late Work: A Memoir” by the poet William Corbett and “Telling Stories: Philip Guston’s Later Works” by David Kaufmann, the latter too dense in high brow criticism but the subject matter is thrilling.

Amazon thought I might like the recently released “Philip Guston: Collected Writings, Lectures, and Conversations”. I do. It’s the Gutson mother load. Great artists (Rembrandt, Matisse, and Guston) get better with age, they certainly don’t retire. Just look at the amazing Guston trajectory. Guston was a painter first but also a teacher and somewhat of a philosophy nut so his lectures knock me out. His casual conversation, say hanging with Morton Feldman and a cassette recorder, knocks me out. It’s all here.

Expressionists & Expressionism

Monday, March 28th, 2011

Philip Guston painting in "Abstract Expressionism" show at MoMA

A note written on the back of a business card next to a full pot of coffee read “Out for bagels, Be back soon.” I hadn’t even finished my PopWars entry when Duane returned with a brown bag full. He got on his computer in the back room and told me I had some of the best typos on my blog. I had written “we opened the widow” in that morning’s post. I can’t spell and I depend on spellcheck so I often use the wrong word because, hey, it doesn’t have a red line under it.

We are not members of MoMA so we had to wait until Sunday to see the “German Expressionism”show when it opened to the public. The museum’s staff staged a dramatic presentation of these powerful, graphic works, mostly prints but some paintings, mounted on grey walls interspersed with deep red, yellow green and mustard sections with the usually offending curator’s notes on colors to match the walls. These details are important in a show with 250 mostly small, mostly black and white works on paper. They come off with a bang.

Otto Dix’s “The War” etchings filled a red wall with updated versions of Goya’s “Disasters of War.” Max Beckman’s 1917 painting, “Descent From The Cross” uses Christ’s crucifixion as a metaphor for war. Kathie Kollowitz’s heart wrenching woodcuts from her series called “War” stand as a timeless display of the emotional costs of war. If they were as powerful as they look we would all learn something from them before heading off to war. None of this work is as grizzly as I’ve made it out to be. Nolde, Egon and Kirchner, all giants of German Expressionism, have a masterly ability to cut to the chase.

We had looked a the “MoMA Abstract Expressionism” iPad app so many times I felt as though we had already seen the show but nothing can prepare you for the impact of these monumental paintings in the flesh. Kline, Motherwell, Rothko, Newman, Pollack, Gottlieb and Guston transformed the art world in the last century and their impact is still being felt.

Experience

Friday, February 4th, 2011

Cowboy graffiti in Ithaca, NY

When you travel somewhere you experience that place intensely. You are stimulated by the new environment.

I’m reading this book on Philip Guston’s Roma paintings, paintings that I once thought slight, as if Guston could do slight and as if I am worthy to judge a Philip Guston. Guston got more sculptural in Italy in an direct, elementary way painting monuments and shaped shrubbery and looking at Morandi and the Italians.

Ash Can School

Monday, September 13th, 2010

Trash can at the cemetery in Rochester New York

I was cutting through the cemetery on my bike when it dawned on me that the trash cans there are made of metal, not plastic. I was thinking how we used to call them “ash cans” when we were kids probably because that’s what our parents called them. And for good reason, they used to put their ashes in them before all the coal burning furnaces were converted to gas or oil. And we called the garbage men “the ashmen”. We used to get exited when they came down our city street. I don’t even remember garbage men after we moved to Webster. Teenagers have other stuff on their mind.

Steve Hoy and I rented a house Bloomington for $85 a month and it had a coal burning furnace. We used to shovel the ashes out and pile them up on the basement floor. One night I went down there with the lights off and the four foot pile was glowing red hot. We were too lazy (or preoccupied) to put the ashes in the damn ash can.

I was tuned in to the metal ash can because I had just finished reading another Guston book, “Telling Stories” by David Kaufmann. Guston uses the trash can lids as shields for his klansmen and Kaufmann discusses Guston’s allegories which are are now all swimming around in my head. I just googled “Philip Guston ashcan lids” and found this cool passage from last summer’s Guston book.

The Right To Write Badly

Sunday, July 25th, 2010

Smokey lawnmower on Culver Road in Rochester, NY

I’m reading William Corbett’s memoir of Philip Guston where Philip Guston is reading Isaac Babel. “Comrades let us not fool ourselves: this is a very important right (the right to write badly), and to take it from us is no small thing. Let us give up this right, and may God help us. And if there is no God, let us help ourselves”. Guston cherished going out on a limb. Isaac Babel was arrested, tortured and shot during Joseph Stalin’s Great Purge.

We rode our bikes down to the old Newport House on Irondequoit Baty. The former speakeasy is still there but it’s boarded up and in demo mode headed for upscale condos. A worker came out and asked if he could help us. You know you’re in trouble when someone asks you if they can help you. On the way back we smelled something foul in the air. It got worse the closer we got to Culver Road and there we found this guy desperately trying to mow his lawn before his mower burned up.

We gave Kim Simmons two boxes of cds to sell on eBay. He takes 30% for his effort and that seems fair. We spent most of the weekend in the garage going through boxes of junk. Our house came with junk that the previous owners couldn’t sell at their final garage sale and we piled our junk in front of that junk. I feel like we’re all pawns in a giant worldwide garage sale scheme.

It Doesn’t Get Any Better Than This

Saturday, January 2nd, 2010

New Year Card 2009/2010

Our nephew sent us a postcard from Marfa Texas. The card is a color polaroid glued to a piece of cardboard, a shot he took of a building there with a sign on it that read “Sun Ra Building.” The note on the back was typed (with a typewriter). He is decidedly “old school” and I am jealous. Maybe it’s just a y2kX reaction.

Roberta Smith had a great article in Friday’s NY Times Weekend Arts section, entitled “Time, the Infinite Storyteller“, encouraging New Year’s readers to “take refuge in art.” She more or less suggested wandering in the Met and letting the works of art mark the old and formulate the new. She started with works created in 1353 BC and finished by talking about painting. It “is also good for exploring all-too-real forms of psychic time, as in Philip Guston’s aptly titled “Stationary Figure” of 1973. It shows said figure in bed, prostrate — paralyzed really — with a bad case of night sweats or racing thoughts: wide awake, he smokes and stares, at the clock, the bare light bulb, the black sky visible through his window.”

Ken brought his big bass to the Little on Wednesday and it sounded amazing. I fully expected Pete LaBonne to surprise us and show up at the gig even though he emailed that it was too cold in the mountains to leave. The place was packed and the band sounded good as a foursome. Jeanne Perri was there with Trish from the LDR. They brought us a a bottle of a Caravella that Jeanne said was the rage in Italy. It was in a bag that lit up so we displayed it on Peggi’s amp.

I stacked the iTunes deck for New Year’s Eve with Pete LaBonne and Dreamland Faces but it was almost too loud to hear the stereo. The kids kept telling me to turn it up so I cranked it and some guests went in the the other room to escape. I had a separate list ready for when people started dancing and I may have switched to that prematurely. Chris Schepp asked me if I had any music by white guys? I put on Marvin Gaye’s “A Funky Space Reincarnation.” John, Maureen’s friend, told me he had “a perfect palette” and I was trying to imagine what that meant. Someone brought “Blue Moon” beer and I didn’t even get the connection until today. We had more beer left over after the party than when we started. I found two double A batteries in our compost and we had ten empty quart bottles of seltzer when we were done. George Jones’ “Once You’ve Had The Best” came on about three o’clock and Brian Williams shouted “It Doesn’t Get Any Better Than This.”

Instant Agenda

Sunday, December 13th, 2009

"Untitled" by Philip Guston from Small Panels show at McKee Gallery

We got out of town ahead just ahead of the other day and drove to my brother’s place in Montclair, New Jersey. We kept his kids up way too late, talking and listening to Christmas records from his vinyl collection. We had breakfast with the kids, who were already late for school, and said goodbye to my brother as he raced off to work. The last thing he said was, “I left part of the paper here for you”. So I dove into the Friday’s Fine Arts section and spotted a Philip Guston painting with a review by Roberta Smith of a show at Midtown’s McKee Gallery. We instantly had an agenda for our New York trip.

We found our way to Brooklyn and parked the car for the weekend near Duane’s apartment. More coffee and the F train to midtown Manhattan for this eye popping show. Philip Guston is my favorite artist and these small panels blew me away. This was a sensational show. Only four of these pieces were for sale. You could pick up all four for 1.3 million.

Even the Metropolitan Museum could not top that show but Robert Frank’s “The Americans” was pretty incredible. The prints were so much richer than the old book I bought at Light Impressions when they upstairs in Midtown Plaza. It was like seeing these by now familiar photos for the first time. We had an eggplant sandwich and a corn muffin at the museum café and then Duane and Peggi went up to see the “Velazquez Rediscovered” show while I wandered off to the Roman art section and to photograph some busts. I can’t get over how contemporary these heads look, like people you know or wish you knew, even though they were sculpted around the time of Christ.

Duane is the perfect NYC guide. He wears an orange hat and Peggi and I just shut off our navigational instincts and gawk and follow the hat and try not to walk into a light pole or something. We took a couple of trains back to Brooklyn and hung out for bit in pad before heading back out to the Front Room Gallery in Williamsburg for an art opening. It was a “Multiples and Editions” show and the curator was a friend of Duanes. The thirty five artists all had small, very reasonably priced (for the holidays) art in every nook and cranny of the two funky rooms. Duane bought a pocket sized “Kodak Guide to Photographing Your Dog“.

After the opening we went next door to the Flying Cow, a saloon style Argentinean restaurant. We shared octopus salad and then a beet salad, a bottle of Spanish Rioja and two vegetarian dishes called, “Shangrila”. I spoiled a perfect meal by trying a Morcilla sausage appetizer. I’m a sucker for those Spanish delicacies. The bartender played the whole “Between The Buttons” record and then some Neil Young. We complimented him on the way out.

Head On

Thursday, October 22nd, 2009

Philip Guston "Web" 1975 on view at the Memorial Art Gallery in Rochester, NY in "Paint Made Flesh" show.
Detail from Philip Guston “Web” 1975 on view at the Memorial Art Gallery in Rochester, NY in “Paint Made Flesh” show. Click photo for full painting.

Paint Made Flesh” originated at the Frist Center in Nashville and then stopped at the Philips Collection in DC before arriving at the Memorial Art Gallery in Rochester. It features an all star lineup of top-shelf painter’s work from 1952 to 2006. I was asked to make some short comments on the painting of my choice. The MAG sent me the tiniest jpegs of the collection and I spotted Philip Guston’s “Web” painting in there so I claimed it. I had seen this painting at the Modern when they had their sensational Guston retrospective a few years back. I was given a brief opportunity to preview this show at the MAG (It opens this Saturday) and it will be an overwhelming treat for painters.

I used my smoothest delivery to record these comments for their audio tour. It can be accessed at the show with your cell phone.

I’m Paul Dodd and I’m happy to say a few words about Philip Guston’s painting entitled “Web”.

After a very successful run as a painter of gorgeous abstracts, Philip Guston decided that he wanted to “tell stories” and he returned to the figure. These late paintings are blunt, humorous and dark. Here he depicts himself face down on the ground, his monstrous, bloodshot eye has looked too much or seen too much yet he is still looking, eye wide open. He poured his entire life into painting and and he confronted it head on. He recognized the absurdity of it all and had the graphic skills to express it, often painting about the act of painting itself.

You have to move back a bit to take in the scope of this landscape, the dramatic advance of the spiders capitalizing on the artist’s inertia and the blood pool that stops abruptly and floats in transparent space while his wife, Musa, his life-affirming source, pops up at his side.

I find Guston’s late work to be heroic in its openness and thrilling in its directness. I hope you enjoy it.

Now if I had a cell phone I could hear it back.

Satisfaction Is Nothing

Tuesday, January 20th, 2009

Doctor Burns has his own Joesph Cornell in his office in Rochester, NY

“Frustration is one of the great things in art. Satisfaction is nothing”. Philip Guston told it like it is.

It’s physically tough too. I sprained my ankle a few weeks ago running down the stairs with a painting in my arms. And for months I’ve been watching this dry red patch between my thumb and forefinger get more and more irritated. It’s on the hand I hold my palette with. In the last week I noticed a funky odor when I brought my hand near my nose. I googled “skin oder” and found all sorts of skin cancer links and stories about animals becoming aware of their owner’s cancer before doctors. So I called my doctor and he got me right in.

He had a Joesph Cornell like box on his wall and I took a shot of it. I explained that my palette used to be painted white but I have worn the paint off over the years. My doctor prescribed a low level topical steroid ointment. He said it was probably a reaction to the chemicals in the plywood and suggested that I give my palette a new coat of paint. I thanked him and gave him a post card for my painting show.

For Alice

Tuesday, January 6th, 2009


click photo for whole painting

I’m reading a book by Musa Meyer, Philip Guston’s daughter, called “Night Studio”. Wow. There’s a good chunk of therapy in there. It is impossible to be a great artist and a good father. Philip Guston is no saint unless you redefine “saint”. And I do. Saints, to me, are heroes. They are not all good and that makes them more godlike. Philip Guston is the patron saint of existentialists.

His late paintings are his best. They blow me away. What more could you ask for in a painting? They are meaty as hell, ugly and beautiful at the same time. And heroic. The MAG in Rochester has one of the late paintings called “Reverse”. It’s a painting of the back of a stretched canvas leaning against a wall. There is an incredible sense of form like R. Crumb. Probably a white wall but not in Guston’s hands. This is a whole environment. There’s a bare bulb from his closet childhood and a chain swinging like the light has just been turned on. The confrontation has begun.

This is my favorite painting in the Memorial Art Gallery’s collection and it manages to get better each time I see it. The MAG has put it in the best spot in the whole place. Its almost has its own room. And there is even a bench across from it, not some dumb piece of art but a bench you can sit on. Look for this painting.

What Are Your Plans?

Saturday, May 17th, 2008

If I was in NYC this weekend I would be headed to the “Philip Guston: Works on Paper” show at the Morgan. After that I would head down to the West Village to Gavin Brown’s Enterprise for the Elizabeth Peyton show. She is one of my favorite painters. If I was Andrea Stim and in NYC I would be up on the roof of the Metropolitan for the Jeff Koon’s sculpture show. We have been looking for an opening to get down there.

Lucky Duane, he lives there and last night he saw Suicide. He sent this report up.

Last nite in my old neighborhood, literally around the corner from my old apt, in a Polish disco, Suicide played. It was sort of intense in a different way than their shows can usually be. Marty was wearing the biggest pair of goggles I’ve ever seen, like something from a space-age motorcycle helmet with pitch black lenses. The rest of his outfit was almost too much to explain. Red satin Hip hop basketball jogging suit w/ a shredded blk t-shirt. Vega wore what Vega always wears, black. + a Knit hat on his head.

Marty started by playing a whole heap of white noise sounds – high pitched – with no rhythm machine. Then Alan announced that they were dedicating the show to Marty’s wife Marie who had just recently died. That was a shock, & even more so to me because just 1 min earlier I’d asked Howard why, when Alans wife Liz was always at the shows, did we never see Marty’s wife. No idea why that Q had popped into my head. And so Howard had just told me she died in Feb. Married since 1971.

The clubs PA was too small & I think Martys unusually raw & emotional playing was too much (maybe purposely) because for most of the show the sound was really distorted & the sound system auto-shut down a couple of times for like 2 sec. That was intense too, the sudden silence. Lots & lots of white noise, my ears are really ringing today.

Song titles that I remember – Dream Baby, Wrong Decisions, Cheree, Che, Stayin Alive, Ghost Rider, Death Machine.

At one point While Rev was playing all this noise, Vega was putting his mic into the speaker of Revs amp & rubbing it all around the rim, etc. Extra noise & distortion. They played about an hour, & got a long applause encore. At the end of the encore, after Alan had left the stage, Marty finished up with an overloaded white noise wall of sound & then took off his goggles & said something solemn into the mic about his wife, but it was so distorted & blown out I couldnt understand it. Kind of a loose, sloppy, & unfocused, one off type show. Good, not great. But a good Suicide show usually still has more than some other peoples great shows. We chatted with Liz before the show & went bk & said hello to the guys after.

That friggin neighborhood was just waiting for me to leave to become incredibly hip. This place was totally east euro cool/trashy, and the hottest underground club in NYC now is at the next corner down on Calyer street towards the river.

Didnt take my camera but Howard took some shots. There was a great point & shoot in someones hands there, nice big LCD & it looked like it shot some form of nitevision, but it was deep blue instead of green. The guy was too far from me & he left before the show was over or else I was gonna go see what it was. Howard noticed it too, we were both green with envy, so something that fits my needs could be out their waiting for me to find it.

Next weekend is Memorial Day wkd – what are your plans?

Hmmm. We are thinking about driving down to New York.