Connect with us


New biography highlights how Philip Guston risked his art-world standing and livelihood

Philip Guston in front of Painter's Table (1973) © Barbara C. Sproul

Philip Guston (1913-80) ..



Philip Guston in front of Painter's Table (1973) © Barbara C. Sproul

Philip Guston (1913-80) knowingly risked his art-world standing and livelihood in 1970, when he first exhibited paintings abrasively different in style from those that had won him a place among luminaries of the so-called New York School of Abstract Expressionism in the 1950s.

Most critics and artist contemporaries greeted his new work with punishing responses but, as the painter and art historian Robert Storr—who published an earlier monograph on the artist in 1986—recounts in this critical biography, Guston lived to see admiration begin to revive. He died shortly after the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (not then the prestigious institution it has since become) opened a retrospective in 1980. But he could merely dream of the eminence accorded his work posthumously as a hinge between modernist painting and what has come after. Riven by doubts and ambivalence, Guston took a jaded view of predictions of his future influence when they did appear, as in the New York New Museums 1978 exhibition ironically called “Bad” Painting.

“American Abstract art is a lie, a sham…” PHILIP GUSTON

Philip Guston: A Life Spent Painting appears in the run up to Philip Guston Now, a career survey due to open in London at Tate Modern next year (4 February-31 May 2021) before travelling to the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC (3 July-3 October 2021), the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (7 November 2021-6 February 2022) and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (6 March-30 May 2022). As the survey show rolls round, readers of Storrs book can confront eyes-on many of the works crisply illustrated here.

By the luck of a scantly published young critic, I happened to attend the Marlborough Gallery exhibition in Manhattan where Guston unveiled the work that would explode—in a double sense—his position in the post-1945 US art world. I arrived early, knowing a little of Gustons abstract work, and felt as baffled as anyone by the big canvases sporting ham-fisted images of glumly risible Ku Klux Klansmen at home or cruising cityscapes cluttered with rubbish cans, nail-studded lumber, heaped-up body parts, faux-Stone Age architecture and other figural flotsam. “Shoes. Rusted iron, Mended Rags… Bricks, bent nails and pieces of wood… Cigarette butts… Empty booze bottles,” were among items he had put on a list, found following his death. Yet the lushness of Gustons colour and touch, and his confident address of big pictorial expanses, cast a spell that outlasted bafflement long after I fled the thickening crowd, social tension and cigarette smoke of the gallery opening. (I met the painter himself only several years later.)

Philip Guston in his studio © Barbara C. Sproul

Fearing the worst, Guston had arranged to sail with his wife to Europe on the morning after the event. They were abroad for nine months, but news of the critical reaction eventually caught up with him. Two headlines evoke its scope: “A Mandarin Pretending to be a Stumblebum” on the review by Hilton Kramer in the New York Times and “Liberation from Detachment” in the New Yorker, on an article by Harold Rosenberg, a long-time friend of the artist.

“Kramer excoriated the formerly refined Guston of the 1950s,” Storr writes, “for having crossed over to the camp of vulgar aesthetic slumming epitomised for him by Pop Art. [His review] was… carefully aimed to do the maximum damage by a man with an insiders awareness of the insecurities and prejudices of readers among the old guard Abstract Expressionists and their followers.” Rosenberg took a wider, friendlier, rhetorically cooler view, writing that “The separation of art from social realities threatens the survival of painting as a serious activity… Painting needs to liberate itself of all systems that place so-called interests of art above the interests of the artists mind. Abstract Expressionism liberated painting from the social-consciousness dogma of the Thirties; it is time now to liberate it from the ban on social consciousness. Guston… has managed to make social comment seem natural to the visual language of post-war painting.” Critical controversy over his art has pivoted ever since around that last assertion.

Some visitors to Gustons 1966 exhibition at New Yorks Jewish Museum had noted figural rumblings among the dark, turbulent abstractions he presented there. Surging brushwork and a clumping refusal to settle aesthetically had supplanted the loose lattices of florid colour that the public had come to regard as Gustons signature style. The weighty, uncontained formal incidents that define Gustons mid-1960s paintings Storr describes “as the culmination of ambivalent meditations on cryptic forms that seemed to come from nowhere and belong nowhere”.

“You know, Philip, what your real subject is? Its freedom!” Williem de Kooning

Guston warned admirers of his creative restlessness, declaring in 1960: “There is something miserly and ridiculous in the myth we inherit from abstract art… That painting is autonomous, pure and for itself… But painting is impure. It is the adjustment of impurities which forces paintings continuity. We are image-makers and image-ridden.”

The paintings, first shown in 1970, and nearly all that would follow, burst with “impurities”—personal, cultural and phantasmal. Recalling the Marlborough shows aftermath, which spelled several years exile from the art market, the artist would habitually mention the approval of his friend Williem de Kooning, who told him, “You know, Philip, what your real subject is? Its freedom!”

Robert Hughes, the art critic for Time and another of the eras loudest cultural voices, wrote that “In three minutes of film… the movie camera can disclose more of the reality that appals Guston than his whole exhibition has done. As political statement, they are all as simple-minded as the bigotry they denounce.” But arts abject misperception by a spiritually impoverished mercantile society was part of “the reality that appals Guston”. So, too, was his guilt-ridden sense of his own moral position as a husband, father and self-destructive monster of creative obsession.

Storrs title, A Life Spent Painting, is a reminder of this fact for those who knew Guston. Only after several years of intermittent, intense conversations did he mention, uncomfortably, to me that he had a grown daughter, Musa Mayer. (Her 1988 book, Night Studio: a Memoir of Philip Guston, is an emotionally complex and remarkably true portrait, and a source for Storr and for this review.)

Looking back at Gustons youth and prodigious early work, Storr shows how Kramer and Hughes so elaborately misread Guston. The critics apparently knew little or nothing of Gustons early paintings of Klansmen, based on his witness of their strike-breaking and other violent misdeeds in 1920s Los Angeles. The Klansmen resurfaced, transfigured, at the turn of the 1970s, implicating even Guston himself as he imaginatively entered their world of sullen, fiendish wickedness. “American Abstract art is a lie, a sham…” he wrote in notes, found posthumously, from the 1970s, “A lie to cover up how bad one can be… It is an escape from the true feelings we have, from the raw, primitive feelings—about the world, and us in it. In America.”

Philip Guston in his studio © Barbara C. Sproul

Writing with drive and clarity, Storr records the historical background of Gustons art, never losing sight of “the interests of the artists mind”, from lifelong fascination with newspaper comics to Leftist political sympathies that stretched back to his high school days in Los Angeles and his formative stints as an assistant to the Mexican muralist, David Alfaro Siquieros, and as a Works Progress Administration artist during the 1930s. An unusually detailed and richly illustrated chronology, compiled by Amanda Renshaw, lays out links between the artists private and public lives.

“[He] was in constant pursuit of his true identity,” Storr writes, “or, in line with the precepts of the existentialist philosophy he gravitated toward in the 1950s, alwaysRead More – Source

Continue Reading


Leeds Festival: Bad Boy Chiller Crew get Yorkshire bouncing



Bad Boy Chiller crew may have started out as a bit of a joke online but on Friday they provided some serious party vibes as Leeds Festival got under way.

Bradford’s notorious bassline collective got a sea of bucket hats bouncing with their infectious energy and hilarious stage presence.

The rap-dance collective brought their dads/friends onstage for a rave, while downing booze in between spitting bars.

But they were enjoying themselves for so long organisers pulled the plug.

Having overrun, the fun-loving outfit had their microphones, decks and music silenced, drawing boos from revellers as they stormed off to make room for a “No Leeds on a Dead Planet” public service video about environmental concerns around the event.

West Yorkshire Police later said they arrested two people following an incident on stage at Leeds Festival shortly after 16:00 BST on Friday.

The pair were subsequently bailed, pending further enquiries.

‘Unashamedly Yorkshire’

In recent years, the rap trio, comprised of Gareth “GK” Kelly, Kane Welsh and Sam “Clive” Robinson have have been not so quietly working their way up the bill at their home county festival, rapping over old school dance beats.

They’ve gone from starting in the BBC Music Introducing tent to one of the main stages, where they looked very at home, leading the crowd in a chorus of “oggy oggy oggy”s.

Dressed in their crispest white shirts and big red ties, the local rappers – who recently starred in their own ITV2 docu-series – raced through verses from their recent mixtape and debut album, including 450 and BMW, as well new track When It Rains, It Pours (thankfully it didn’t, as the clouds covered the Yorkshire sun for the first time on Friday).

They raced through beer, cider and vodka at an (alarmingly) equally rapid rate, as a family friend known affectionately as Kitchen Steve twirled a cane in a head-masterly fashion and Kelly’s dad Hopper, wearing a Burberry outfit, threw out some serious shapes and hip shakes.

One Twitter user commented: “Omg! Bad Boy Chiller Crew. What is this?! It’s like [Welsh act] Goldie Lookin Chain on speed. There is even a ‘Bez'”.

Robinson even appeared to have had an influence on, or at least reflect, some of the festival-goers’ fashion senses, with mullets adorning the heads of young men at Branham Park, for possibly the first time in decades.

Rap music from around the UK regions, not just the capital, has become more prominent on the bill here in recent years. “It’s tongue-in-cheek funny and unashamedly Yorkshire,” wrote the BBC’s Will Chalk about Bad Boy Chiller Crew – who recently launched a fans for foodbanks initiative – in an interview two years ago, when they were just starting their journey to where they are now.

Earlier on Friday, emo rocker Willow Smith, daughter of Will and Jada Pinkett Smith brought the first big singalong of the day as the crowds began to arrive in the searing heat, with one of the songs of last year, her viral hit Meet Me at the Spot.

She followed it up with a new one of her own, Hover Like a Goddess. “Every woman is a goddess,” she beamed, drawing loud cheers.

Bastille did an early set on Friday evening, having just released an extended version of their latest album Give Me the Future.

They told the BBC that performing at the double header Reading and Leeds Festivals 10 years ago in a smaller tent – and hearing one of their softer songs sung back to them with gusto – was the first time they thought they were really on to something as a band.

“We had to stop because I was it was so blown away, it just was just so overwhelming,” said singer and songwriter Dan Smith.

“That was kind of amazing moment, as particularly as back 10 years ago, Reading and Leeds was much more like rock and heavy music. So as a as a weird little cinematic indie band, and being the massive cynic that I am, I was like, ‘what’s the crowd gonna make of us?’

“So to have that first experience all those years ago was pretty surreal.”

The Leeds leg of the Bank Holiday weekender was officially opened on Thursday evening by up-and-coming Sunderland indie rocker Tom A Smith, who recently supported Sir Elton John. Afterwards he told the BBC it was “without doubt the best [gig] I’ve ever done”.

“We had mosh pits and people singing my songs back,” said Smith. “It was absolutely insane, what an experience.”

Reading and Leeds Festivals take place across two sites and will feature headline performances at each from artists including The 1975, Dave, Arctic Monkeys and Megan Thee Stallion.

Read from:

Continue Reading


On my radar: Moses Sumney’s cultural highlights



theguardian– Singer-songwriter Moses Sumney, 29, grew up between Ghana and California and studied creative writing and poetry at UCLA. His piercing falsetto and genre-defying music have brought him critical acclaim, starting with his self-recorded 2014 EP Mid-City Island, followed in 2017 by his debut album, Aromanticism, and the 2020 double album Græ. Sumney has collaborated with musicians including Bon Iver and James Blake and toured with Solange and Sufjan Stevens. His latest project is Blackalachia, a self-directed concert film created in association with WePresent, shot over two days in the Blue Ridge Mountains of western North Carolina, where he lives.

1. TV

Selling Sunset (Netflix)

I pity anyone who hasn’t seen this show. It’s a reality show about a real estate agency in west Hollywood, and it follows the lives and deals of the people who work there, predominantly the female staff who are all ridiculously Barbie-ish – essentially “career Barbie on crack”. It’s incredible. I love reality TV – it tells us a lot about humanity. Reality shows are always inherently dated, so they’re a great capsule of the modern era.

2. Music

Don’t Be So Hard On Your Own Beauty by Yeule

I don’t know what it is about this song, but I’m addicted to it. Yeule is a Singaporean artist based in London who’s kind of new on the scene, and this song is just so hypnotising – it hints and winks at hyperpop while being an absolutely heart-shattering folk tune. It’s a beautiful amalgamation of a lot of different genres, and it’s stunning. I have a lot of playlists – for driving, for chilling at night, a morning playlist, a folk playlist – and this is in all of them.

3. Book

How to Do Nothing by Jenny Odell

I’m currently reading this – I put off reading it because it looks like a self-help book – but it’s really fascinating. The author is an artist who works largely in digital art and the book is about how to free yourself from the capitalist trappings of the workforce – not necessarily saying “quit your job”, but suggesting a new path for work. It asks the question: how can we construct our identities apart from defining ourselves by what we do and by our income? It’s a very radical book, and it’s often a hard read. But it has been mind-shifting.

4. Place

Western North Carolina

I’ve been travelling a lot for work, so I’ve been thinking about how much I would prefer to spend my time in western North Carolina, particularly in the mountains, where I live. I think it’s the most beautiful place in the world. I first arrived in Asheville when I was on tour and knew immediately I wanted to live here. You turn around, 360 degrees in any direction, and you’re surrounded by trees, by the sound of animals, and that’s really a rare feeling for anyone who’s spent most of their life, as I have, living in the city.

5. Film

Eve’s Bayou (Kasi Lemmons, 1997)

This stars a young Jurnee Smollett, who recently had a resurgence with Lovecraft Country. She’s 10 years old in the film, which is set in a fictional small town in Louisiana. Samuel L Jackson stars as the patriarch of the family, who is maybe cheating on his wife, his daughter sets out to kill him and punish him, perhaps through witchcraft. It was incredibly critically acclaimed and subsequently snubbed by every major award ceremony. It’s a gorgeous, heartbreaking film. I first saw it last year and I think about it every day.

6. Fashion


The couture line that Balenciaga launched this summer is another thing that has permanent residency in my brain. I think that what Demna [Gvasalia, creative director] is doing with sculpture and architecture through fashion is some of the most interesting theatre of our time. It’s like a marriage of Romantic and gothic style – it’s a bit ecclesiastical, almost monastic, and I want it all. There’s this really wonderful circular headpiece that feels like: “I’m going to service, but in the year 3021.”

… we have a small favour to ask. Millions are turning to the Guardian for open, independent, quality news every day, and readers in 180 countries around the world now support us financially.

We believe everyone deserves access to information that’s grounded in science and truth, and analysis rooted in authority and integrity. That’s why we made a different choice: to keep our reporting open for all readers, regardless of where they live or what they can afford to pay. This means more people can be better informed, united, and inspired to take meaningful action.

In these perilous times, a truth-seeking global news organisation like the Guardian is essential. We have no shareholders or billionaire owner, meaning our journalism is free from commercial and political influence – this makes us different. When it’s never been more important, our independence allows us to fearlessly investigate, challenge and expose those in power. Support the Guardian from as little as $1 – it only takes a minute. If you can, please consider supporting us with a regular amount each month. Thank you.

Continue Reading


Hong Kong’s famous Tiananmen Square ‘Pillar of Shame’ statue removed from university



cnn– For more than 20 years the “Pillar of Shame” sculpture stood as a memorial to the victims of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, in which the Chinese military crushed protests led by college students in Beijing with deadly force.
Atop a podium in the University of Hong Kong’s (HKU) campus, the 26-foot-tall (8 meter) statue of contorted human torsos was one of the last iconic memorials to victims of the bloody crackdown remaining on Hong Kong soil.
But around midnight on Thursday, yellow construction barriers were erected around the statue and the sounds of cracking and demolition were heard as the sculpture was removed under the cover of darkness.
Images taken during the removal process show workers wrapping the statue in protective film and lifting it out of the campus on a crane in two distinct parts. The HKU Council, the university’s governing body, said in a statement the sculpture will be held in storage.
A witness said Thursday morning the site of the sculpture is now empty and students have been seen crying on campus following the removal. CNN agreed to not disclose the name of this witness because the person feared retribution from authorities.
That fear of retribution is common among those who speak out against authorities in Hong Kong since Beijing imposed the National Security Law on the city in 2020, punishing offenses such as subversion and secession with sentencesof up to life in prison.
The HKU Council said in a statement the removal “was based on external legal advice and risk assessment for the best interest of the university.”
The sculpture, which stood in the Haking Wong Building of the university, was part of a series of works by Danish artist Jens Galschiøt created in 1997 — the year Hong Kong was returned to China after more than 150 years of British rule. The sculpture includes the inscription: “The old cannot kill the young forever,” and was built to serve “as a warning and a reminder to people of a shameful event which must never reoccur,” according to the description on Galschiøt’s website.
Galschiøt called the statue’s removal “a very hard attack against the free word in the world.”
He told CNN that he hopes to bring the statue back to Denmark so he can reassemble it. His wish is to then bring it to Washington D.C., where he hopes to place it in front of the Chinese Embassy. There, it will serve as a message to Beijing that the massacre is remembered and spoken about, he said.
For three decades, Hong Kong has been the only place on Chinese-controlled soil where an annual mass vigil has been held to mark the events in and around Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989.
The clampdown remains one of the most tightly censored topics in mainland China, with discussions of it scrubbed from mass media. Chinese authorities have not released an official death toll, but estimates range
from several hundred to thousands.
After the 1997 handover, the continuation of the vigil and similar memorials were seen as a litmus test for Hong Kong’s ongoing autonomy and democratic freedoms, as promised in its de facto constitution.
However, in the wake of national security law, scores of prominent pro-democracy politicians and activists have been jailed or fled the city, and numerous civil society groups have disbanded.
Attempts to commemorate the events of June 4 have also been adversely impacted.
The last two Tiananmen vigils have been banned by police, citing coronavirus restrictions. Prominent activists, including Joshua Wong and media tycoon Jimmy Lai, were later jailed for participating in an unauthorized public commemoration in 2020.
A Hong Kong museum dedicated to the victims of June 4 was forced to close earlier this year and moved its entire collection online citing “political oppression.”
And on Friday, two more Tiananmen Square crackdown memorials were also removed from Hong Kong campuses.
The Chinese University of Hong Kong took down a “Goddess of Democracy” statue, stating it never authorized the display in the first place. The original figure was built out of papier-mâché by student protesters at Tiananmen Square in May 1989. A bronze replica was created by China-born New Zealand artist Chen Weiming and brought to the CUHK campus in 2010.
Lingnan University similarly removed a relief by the same artist, saying it “may pose legal and safety risks to the University community.”
Following news that the HKU “Pillar of Shame” sculpture was being dismantled, the artist Galschiøt wrote on his Twitter account, “I’m totally shocked that Hong Kong University is currently destroying the pillar of shame. It is completely unreasonable and a self-immolation against private property in Hong Kong.”
“We encourage everyone to go out to Hong Kong University and document everything that happens with the sculpture,” he added in a statement.
In its statement, HKU Council said, “No party has ever obtained any approval from the University to display the statue on campus, and the University has the right to take appropriate actions to handle it at any time.”
It added the university “is also very concerned about the potential safety issues resulting from the fragile statue. Latest legal advice given to the University cautioned that the continued display of the statue would pose legal risks to the University based on the Crimes Ordinance enacted under the Hong Kong colonial government.”
Efforts to preserve the memory of the sculpture are already underway, with art-activist group Lady Liberty Hong Kong creating a 3-D model made using more than 900 photos.
“The idea is that everyone can print a copy it and place it wherever they want,” said Alex Lee, the founder of the group. “In the digital age, there’s no limitation of what you can do with virtual or physical objects — (the hope is) for everyone to try to preserve this symbol.”
According to Lee, the statue represented something of the fundamental difference between Hong Kong and mainland China. “It (the statue) symbolized that Hong Kong still has room for the freedom of speech and it really means that Hong Kong is still a different part from China,” said Lee. “But then I think right now, that last really small space is gone.”
On Sunday, Hong Kong’s first “China patriots only” legislative election witnessed a record low turnout, reflecting a steep decline in civic and political engagement following Beijing’s overhaul of the city’s electoral processes earlier this year.
Following the vote, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam traveled to Beijing and met with Chinese Leader Xi Jinping, who endorsed her administration and praised her for moving the city “from chaos to order,” according to a government statement of the meeting.
Calling the election — in which turnout was just 30.2% — a “success” Xi said the city had “made solid progress in promoting democratic development that suits Hong Kong’s reality.”
“The democratic right of Hong Kong compatriots has been shown,” Xi said.
A number of Hong Kong activists who fled abroad labeled the election — in which prospective candidates were first screened by the government — as a “sham,” a criticism echoed by many rights groups and international observers.
Top image: Workers remove part of the “Pillar of Shame” into a container at the University of Hong Kong on December 23, 2021.

Continue Reading


Copyright © 2020 ,