Sunday, June 12, 2016

Guston, and Getting Out of Your Own Way

Figuring out how to get to NY to see the Guston show. Years ago, I had a revelation when I read about the excruciatingly protracted process leading up to the dramatic change in Philip Guston's work. He spoke of fighting the imagery that wanted to come through in his work for over a decade before he "let it win." It struck me that the methods I had already been using in teaching students how to find their visual voice could be honed to facilitate a similar receptiveness, perhaps even expedite the process, of discovering the work wants to be made through YOU. This deeply insightful Jerry Saltz review of "Philip Guston; Painter 1957–1967," articulates so well the focus of the workshop, soon to become a book:

"The lesson of his career is that in order to really be themselves all artists must find their inner Guston: an artist who foregoes easy answers, looks for and channels doubt and not knowing. An artist like this understands that he or she isn’t controlling their art — not really; that on some cosmic level art controls the artist. All great artists must be able to create a machine that can make things that they cannot predict. Even when they make what might be nightmarish or ugly to them."

Which is why "Philip Guston; Painter 1957–1967," at Hauser & Wirth, a showcase of Guston at the turning point of his career, is an incantatory lesson for all artists. Perfectly curated by the gallery’s Paul Schimmel, the exhibition sounds a secret chord for artists in search of one of art’s many strange grails: how to make art that is original and entirely one’s own. This is especially pressing now that there are promising signs of artists everywhere trying to break through the fog of professionalism and careerism that have crept into the art world; the corporate carefulness that’s made too many painters make little moves in known directions; toe pre-approved formal lines; and make the system feel clogged up, static, sterile. Guston, who was desperate to change, knew this. He said “I got sick and tired of all that purity… the extreme codification of beliefs and the institutionalism of everything.”