Guston in Time: Remembering Philip Guston

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9781582432847: Guston in Time: Remembering Philip Guston
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In the years following his controversial 1970 exhibition at the Marlborough Galleries, Philip Guston was generally viewed as yesterday's scandal, a maverick who had abandoned abstract expressionism and, with it, the adulation of the art world. Few paid serious attention to the disturbing, profound work he was producing in his Woodstock studio. So when Ross Feld, a young novelist and critic, wrote a penetrating review of Guston's latest show, the artist sent him a letter of appreciation: "I felt...as if we knew each other and had had many discussions about painting and literature. In a word - I felt great recognition."
Thus began a remarkable friendship, Feld, a frequent visitor to Guston's studio where the two men would talk late into the night, became Guston's intellectual sparring partner and sounding board - "I'll shout it right out," Guston wrote to Feld, "you inspire me to paint again!" - as well as the artist's most eloquent critic and champion. Guston in Time in Feld's final tribute, and it is at once a testament to a friendship, a provocative and richly nuanced study of one of the twentieth century's most important artists, and a portrait of a remarkable character.
Feld illuminates Guston's key relationships, with wife Musa and composer Morton Feldman, and brings the man himself to life in all his exasperating complexity: "Omnivorous, narcissistic, brilliant, sometimes verbally fluent to the point of glibness and flattery, horridly lonely, someone for whom nothing was enough and too much at the same swamping moment." Feld's evocation of Guston's late, figurative works is equally memorable and acute.

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About the Author:

Ross Feld is the author of four novels, a book of criticism, and a collection of poetry. His articles and criticism were widely published, and he has been awarded a Pushcart Prize as well as fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Macdowell Colony. He lived for years in Cincinnati, where he died in May 2001.

From Publishers Weekly:

The appearance of the critic, novelist and poet Feld's engaging memoir of his late friend the painter Philip Guston (1913-1980) records a double loss, for Feld died in 2001, shortly after its completion. And although the book functions as a moving memorial to a deep and supportive friendship, Feld the critic forgoes the tired parade of anecdotes common to the personal memoir to keep a keen focus on Guston's work, especially the paintings of his last years. Scott Fitzgerald's "there are no second acts in American lives" has been disproved over and over again; Guston added a third act that was unlike anything in the history of art, American or otherwise. Beginning as a muralist in the great Mexican social realist tradition, Guston went on, as many before him, to become an abstract expressionist, but one of uncommon lyric power. But late in his career, Guston returned to figuration, employing motifs from early work (such as hooded Klan figures, now with cigars) and truncated self-portraiture (eyes, heads and enormous-footed sleeping figures) that seemed derived as much from Robert Crumb and the Sunday funnies as from the "historical tradition." Feld's readings of a number of these paintings, informed by his intimacy with the artist, are near-definitive models of passionate clarity and explication. Interwoven with these readings are similarly vivid glimpses of a troubled but lovable man, and the friends-including Philip Roth, composer Morton Feldman and poet Clark Coolidge-whose devotion to Guston is equally palpable. The book is valuable, too, for the light it sheds on the often ill-understood reciprocal nature of the relationships between artists and critics. For just as it is clear that for Guston Feld's articulate support was crucial, Guston's responses to Feld's criticism and other work seems just as important. Guston himself is abundantly present, not only in Feld's reminiscences and the well-chosen illustrations, but in the many letters to Feld that are included. Such generosity is typical of this remarkable volume, which recalls Rilke's "Letters on Cezanne" in its joyful intensity.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Publisher: Counterpoint, 2011
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