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

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Or, was the whole world and everything in it set into an us-or-them binary arrangement because of the Cold War?

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. Remember that when Guston had his first 'stumble-bum' exhibition there was lots of exciting figurative painting and image-making happening. His foregrounding of doubt – about what he was painting, which often shifted in the making, or what his own work was about, or what motivated him to do it at all – was what infused his late paintings with the ability to generate new ideas in the heads and hands of others. His repeated (and perhaps willed) endorsement of ‘frustration’ as a crucial artistic ingredient in the mid-1960s gives way, by the end of the decade, to an outpouring of large-scale paintings he repeatedly admitted to being baffled by. 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.It felt weird hearing him describe the speed he could churn them out although that’s also part of why I chose it for the project, lol. Guston, one of the most influential and provocative American artists of the 20th century, had turned his back on the hip New York scene. Got about halfway before losing interest due to it feeling repetitive caused by it being a collection of his interviews and talks.

The editorial model adopted—allow someone else to do all the work, then conveniently “forget” the fact—no doubt helps to keep overheads low, but should we really be happy that the accountants have won again? You can change your choices at any time by visiting Cookie preferences, as described in the Cookie notice. 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). Philip Guston, one of the most significant artists of the twentieth century, spoke about art with unparalleled candour and commitment.

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. To calculate the overall star rating and percentage breakdown by star, we don’t use a simple average. 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. Guston is again someone you would like to invite for dinner and who would entertain and light up the evening with endless reflections and digressions about art.

During his lifetime he seemed an outsider, but now the world of painting seems to have regrouped around him. 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.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. No criptic arty language but relatable and approachable writing about making a painting, this proves to me that's mostly art critics that makes art a difficult subject, for artist it all more simple. So here we are, I am not the biggest fan of his work but there is something about artists, people who produce art, breath art, live art, and of course always think about art, that makes their discussions, thoughts and writings about art, absolutely fascinating. The wealth of information on the creative process, metaphysics, philosophy, art, painting, and anything similar is honestly unreal.

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