Guston, de Chirico, and della Francesca, too

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Post by Rob Matthews

Hey. Cool about the Guston show. I like him a ton even though my work wouldn’t suggest it anymore.

I figured out a long time ago the best way to appreciate Guston is that everyone should stop trying to make work like his. His work gets played off as the epitome of “honesty” due to its rawness but I think that’s just Guston’s honesty- not everyone else’s. Some painters get confused in that regard.

Philip Guston
Philip Guston, retrospective image

Artistic honesty comes in all shapes and sizes right? The KKK hood shape is present in his AbEx works too. It’s not spelled out as a hood but it’s the same shape. Most notably in this piece, it’s the black, green and white shapes in the upper right quadrant.

Philip Guston
Mother and Child, 1930

The Mother and Child piece (1930) is more indicative of his early work. The diChirico influence is more pronounced there.

gustonconspirators.jpg
Philip Guston, Conspirators, 1930

He used the Klan in his early Surreal/Cubist pieces too. I think it’s related to him seeing them being used as strikebreakers in California during his youth. Kind of like the Hells Angels at Altamont or something like that. Someone more knowledgable than me could correctly explain that.

Philip Guston
Phiilip Guston, The Studio, 1969

Wasn’t necessarily motivated by traditional concepts of the Klan. Eventually that hooded figure came to be a self-portrait of sorts and then, like KISS, he took the mask off in his later work.

Philip Guston
Painting, Smoking, Eating, 1973

If you start with Piero della Francesca and Paolo Uccello and draw a line to Guston, I guess di Chirico gets caught up in the mix. Guston had a copy of Piero’s The Flagellation hanging in his kitchen for most of his adult life. That makes a lot of sense considering the self-flagellation works he painted. The Virginia Museum in Richmond has a big self-flagellation piece.

Piero della Francesca
Piero della Francesca, the Flagellation, 1469

Interesting show idea. Is it staying out in Cali or coming this way?

[Ed. note: We think the show’s travelling but we’ll have to get back to you on that.]

–Rob Matthews is a regular Artblog contributor. You can see his fine pencil drawings at Gallery Joe. And read his always interesting and image-rich blog Matthews the Younger about life, art and music. There’s a rant about the Rocky statue and public art and Philadelphia that’s worth a read.

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philip guston, rob matthews

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