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"Philip Guston: Paintings of Four Decades"
2000-05-12 until 2000-07-30
National Gallery of Canada
Montreal-born American artist Philip Guston (1913 - 1980) is one of the great figurative painters of the twentieth
century. During his early years in Los Angeles, he became involved in the artistic and political movements of the
West Coast intellectuals. Guston is considered one of the most important Abstract Expressionists of his
generation, alongside other important representatives of the movement including Jackson Pollock, Clyfford Still,
and Willem de Kooning. Rare as it is for an artist to be equally accomplished in both styles, Guston had the
added challenge of creating figurative work in the late sixties, a period in which abstraction had become the new
orthodoxy. His subjects are both deeply personal and humanistic, his works socially-committed documents of a
violent age. As Guston himself explained, 'So when the 1960's came along I was feeling split, schizophrenic.
The war, what was happening to America, the brutality of the world. What kind of man am I, sitting at home,
reading magazines, going into a frustrated fury about everything - and then going into my studio to adjust a red to
Celebrated for his lyrical and luminous Abstract Expressionist paintings, Philip Guston was one of the most
important and respected members of the New York School in the forties and fifties, commented Pierre
Theberge, Director of the National Gallery of Canada. His subsequent artistic 're-invention', inherent in the
development of an increasingly figurative style of expression during the 1960's and 1970's, demonstrates the
variety and virtuosity of this significant modern painter. The National Gallery of Canada is extremely proud to
present this landmark exhibition.
The National Gallery of Canada will be the only North American venue for the show. In addition to the
international loans from important private or public collections in Europe and North America, the exhibition will
feature the painting Room, painted four years before the artist's death in 1976, and acquired last year by the
National Gallery of Canada. A visceral and strong large-scale canvas, populated by unsettling figures and
objects, Room exemplifies the fusion of iconographic complexity and painterliness that makes it a significant
example of his mature work.
A fully illustrated catalogue in English and French has been produced for the exhibition by the Kunstmuseum,
Bonn. A video on the artist entitled Philip Guston: A Life Lived (Michael Blackwood Productions, Inc., 1982), will
play continuously in the exhibition space, beginning on the hour and half hour, in English and French. Late in life,
the artist looks back over a career that originated in the social realism of the 1930's, moved to the centre of
Abstract Expressionism, and culminated in his last work with figures and imagined objects. Seen working in his
studio, Guston speaks about his philosophy of painting and the psychological motivation for his work. This 25
minute excerpt is shown with permission of Michael Blackwood Productions, Inc.