Studio Sunday: Philip Guston
Philip Guston was an American painter who was one of the leaders in the move from abstract expressionism into neo-expressionism. Guston’s works were, fittingly, often loosely figurative and borrowed imagery and stylistic mannerisms from the cartoons and pop-art of the 1960’s.
Guston’s studio looks rather stark in these photos. Perhaps it’s just the nature of the black and white images, but the space seems to be kept quite clean and there isn’t much décor beyond Guston’s paintings. I enjoy the way he has them set up in the above photo, in a neat grid along the wall. There’s something obsessive about the way he has them organized, and the geometry of the arrangement seems to directly contrast the loose, blob-like forms found within the works.
This obsessiveness is reflected in the way that Guston has his paints organized on the shelf under the table in the bottom photo. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a neat row of paint cans in an artist’s studio! Perhaps the artist simply cleaned up the space for the photographer. It’s interesting, too, to see the contrast between these smaller works (probably sketches) and the huge canvases that Guston often painted on. His works tended to have an underlying current of existentialism, and it’s easy to imagine a viewer getting lost in the expansive and vaguely surreal surface of one of Guston’s canvases.
In the bottom photo, behind Guston’s table of supplies, is a glimpse of the artist’s prolific career – a number of packed drying racks holding untold numbers of paintings. After 1968, the artist became an educator in addition to his practice, lecturing at a few different universities. Guston died in 1980 in Woodstock, New York.