Philip Guston (1913-1980)

One of the greatest painters of the 20th century, he is chiefly known for his oil-painterly cartoons on canvas which speak volumes. Common Guston imagery includes klansmen, heads, objects on the horizon line, bricks, cigarettes, bottles, legs, and shoes, and piles of these things. Some of it gives the impression of gently explaining the evils of the world to a child. The objects have a dopey, implacable weight, and yet amazing buoyant freedom. They are infinitely loveable.

Philip Guston was born Philip Goldstein in Montreal, Quebec, and moved to Los Angeles as a child. His early paintings, in the 1930's, were socially conscious murals, etc., common to that era. He became successful as an abstract expressionist in the New York School in the 50's, and in the 60's he began to paint figuratively again, this time with zany comics in a dirty palette of mostly red, white, and black.

Some quotes by Guston:

"Creativity depends upon your willingness to embarass yourself."

"I got sick of all that purity! Wanted to tell stories. I felt like a movie director, like opening a Pandora's box and all these images came out."

"The act of painting is a trial where all the roles are lived by one person. It's as if the painting has to prove its right to exist. There are enough paintings in the world. Life and art have a mutual contempt and necessity for each other."

"Once, years ago, on a panel, Motherwell said he was searching for the new -- the fresh -- I couldn't help but exclaim that 'Oh no! I am searching for the old, the lived through -- as though it had been in me for a long time --a lifetime -- but not seen before.'

"My God, did I do that? I can't shake off a nervousness and melancholy -- must be the sign of renewed paintings coming. You'd think I'd be used to it by now, but I guess I'm still a victim."

"Anyway, all art is a kind of hallucination, but a hallucination with work. Or dreaming with your eyes open."

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