I Paint What I Want to See: Philip Guston (Penguin Modern Classics)

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I Paint What I Want to See: Philip Guston (Penguin Modern Classics)

I Paint What I Want to See: Philip Guston (Penguin Modern Classics)

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Faith, Hope, and Impossibility and On Morton Feldman are two essays I think every artist should read. Its lack of introduction or contextual detail, aside from Coolidge’s brief notes carried over from the previous publication, isolates Guston’s statements as aphorisms or nuggets of adaptable wisdom. This book captures the breadth and depth of his thinking, and also captures the feeling of an intensely lively era when artists like Cage, Feldman and Guston felt that making art was a branch of philosophy.

Whereas the UCal book was a labor of love, some years in the making—the cassette and reel-to-reel recordings were transcribed, and the book edited, by Guston’s close friend, the poet Clark Coolidge—one suspects that I Paint was whipped up in a matter of minutes. When asked about the subjects of these late paintings, he’s as confounded as anyone – ‘I don’t know what the hell it looks like’, he says, of a painting of a shoe – but that’s just what he loved about making them. The wealth of information on the creative process, metaphysics, philosophy, art, painting, and anything similar is honestly unreal. Even the earliest talk included here, his interview with David Sylvester from 1960, which took place during Guston’s abstract phase, seems to tee up his later practice.The postponement of Guston’s 2020 retrospective, the arguments around which need no further reheating here, cast the artist as a less nuanced protagonist than either his works or his words suggest, in part thanks to the social media context in which those arguments played out. You can change your choices at any time by visiting Cookie preferences, as described in the Cookie notice. Or, was the whole world and everything in it set into an us-or-them binary arrangement because of the Cold War? And I suppose in the Collected Writings there's a lot of repetition and this smaller Penguin edition has the important stuff; the interview with Rosenberg, and the Studio Notes.

Not a review—Guston’s writings and talks are wonderful—but a note to alert the interested reader to the fact that everything in I Paint What I Want to See can be found in Philip Guston: Collected Writings, Lectures, and Conversations, published by the University of California Press in 2010 (this latter book also includes additional material, the editor’s selection of accompanying images, and an Introduction by Dore Ashton).To read this book front-to-back is to witness his paintings gradually outpace Guston’s ability to describe them. Dialogues – with interlocutors like his friends Harold Rosenberg or Clark Coolidge, or with his students at Boston University or the Yale Summer School of Music and Art – allowed Guston to play out in a public forum the equivocations that informed the paintings made in the privacy of the studio. Dialogues were Guston’s chosen form of public speech, several of which, along with other published pieces and talks, are collected in this book, published to coincide with the opening of his rescheduled retrospective in May this year. His declaration that ‘I think of my pictures as a kind of figuration’ is borne out in the works he was making at the time, many of which have matter-of-fact titles ( Table, Vessel, Branch, all 1960) that are worlds away from the highfalutin sublimity of those of his New York School peers. Abstract at times, there were moments when I had no idea what he was on about, but others where he was irresistibly captivating.



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