The Giant Mystery

Guston "Untitled" Head, back view, small panel. "Philip Guston: Now" show at Boston MFA
Guston “Untitled” Head, back view, small panel. “Philip Guston: Now” show at Boston MFA

First, and most surprising, the show was not crowded. In a sane world Philip Guston’s “Now,” at Boston’s MFA would be mobbed. There are silver linings in the madness.

I love the way the curators chose to hang work from different periods of Guston’s life next to one another. He develops an alphabet and then a language and all of it is of a piece, uniquely honest, across time and mediums. Lucious paint application, impressionistic abstracts, the bluntly real at heroic scale, graphic, boiled down charcoal drawings, ink on paper, just a few brilliant strokes.

In many respects the curators, by postponing the show and pushing the racism themes to the fore, do Guston a huge disservice. I’m quite sure he would be horrified at the “Emotional Preparedness” handouts and the deliberate explanation of everything. No artist speaks as eloquently as Guston. No other artist expresses himself as well. And if someone is speaking, shut up. The paintings are about so much more. Humanity, life itself, the giant mystery. Give the guy a break. His put absolutely every ounce of his being into his paintings. He was so open and so giving. Isn’t that enough? The paintings speak for themselves. Long live Guston!

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