Philip Guston in the Collection of The Museum of Modern Art is an exhibition of twenty-four works by Philip Guston (1913–1980), highlighting the generous gifts and bequests of his widow, Musa Guston. A member of the first-generation of Abstract Expressionists, Guston subsequently became the most daring exponent of the return to figuration at the end of the 1960s, producing work that played a critical role in the painting of the following decades. Musa Guston’s donations, in addition to the paintings, drawings, and prints by Guston previously acquired, give the Museum the most important Guston collection in any public institution in the world.
Philip Guston in the Collection of The Museum of Modern Art, charts the artist’s course from 1950 through 1980, as he moves away from image-making into abstraction, and then to his startling reinvention of autobiographical and allegorical figuration. The exhibition includes twenty-four paintings, drawings, and prints, including thirteen of the works donated by Musa Guston.
Red Painting (1950), with which Guston made the transition into complete abstraction, is the earliest work in the exhibition. Also included from this period are Painting (1954), one of the artist’s signal achievements of the time, and two drawings in which he experiments with the possibilities inherent in the crisscross armature that marks his painted work of the period.
With The Clock (1956–57), the emotional distance of Guston’s earlier works gives way to highly charged paintings. In the drawings from this period, Guston is seen probing and exploring his aesthetic course. In the drawing Head-Double View (1958), for example, representation begins its return. Guston’s commitment to narrative is seen in works from 1968 through 1970, such as Wrapped, City Limits, and Untitled, all of 1969, and The Street, of 1970. The exhibition moves on to show the vigorous, enigmatic, often antic pictures that constitute his late style and concludes with Guston’s final, highly inventive works.
Organized by Kirk Varnedoe, director, Department of Painting and Sculpture.