PHILIP GUSTON at Hauser & Wirth

Philip Guston, Rite, 1957, oil on illustration board, 24 x 35 in.

Philip Guston: Painter 1957-1967 at Hauser & Wirth in Chelsea is a watershed exhibition and a revelation. It is astounding that such a show could be assembled almost immediately after Guston's estate moved from the McKee gallery, bringing together more than 50 major works from what I consider to be Guston's most important period. These paintings have long been regarded by many as transitional, from the color field abstractions of the early '50s to the infamous figural work of the '70s, and as such have been generally undervalued in Guston's oeuvre. They are indeed agonizing paintings in which the artist's existential struggle is laid bare on the canvas, and through which he finds his way to his "breakthrough", to a new kind of figuration. The magnificent import of these works lies precisely in that struggle and its metaphorical embodiment in abstract form. With an unparalleled rawness, these paintings convey the gut wrenching tensions that hold and build through a charged decade of searching and speculating about the nature of being, and the nature of painting. Here we see Guston squared off, facing the canvas, painting his way through a mortal battle between his deepest desires and his most dogged preconceptions, pushing his notion of abstraction to a precipice.  

Philip Guston, Untitled, 1958, oil on canvas, 64 x 75 in.

 Philip Guston, Painter, 1959, oil on canvas, 65 x 69 in.

 Philip Guston, Turn, 1959, oil on panel, 22 x 28 in.

Philip Guston, Turnabout, 1959, oil on paper mounted on panel, 22 x 30 in.

Philip Guston, Untitled, 1959, oil on paper mounted on panel, 18 x 24 in.

Philip Guston, Alchemist, 1960, oil on canvas, 61 x 67 in.

Philip Guston, Path II, 1960, oil on canvas, 62 x 71 in.

Philip Guston, Slope II, 1961, oil on paper mounted on canvas, 40 x 30 in.

Philip Guston, Accord, 1962, oil on canvas, 68 x 78 in.

Philip Guston, Painter III, 1963, oil on canvas, 66 x 79 in.

Philip Guston, The Three, 1964, oil on canvas, 80 x 91 in.

Philip Guston, The Year, 1964, oil on canvas, 78 x 107 in.

Philip Guston, May Sixty-Five, 1965, oil on canvas, 70 x 80 in.

Philip Guston, Installation, 2016, Hauser & Wirth, NYC