Philip Guston (1913–1980) was the first abstract painter to return to figuration in the postwar era and was pioneering in his mixing of high art and popular culture. He initially came to prominence as a first-generation Abstract Expressionist, alongside his close friends Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning and Mark Rothko. Toward the end of the 1960s, dissatisfied with abstraction, he embarked on an intense phase of drawing, which culminated in his departure from the "purity" demanded of abstract art. Guston introduced human figures smoking, drinking and painting; large heads, severed hairy legs, clumsy shoes and domestic objects such as walls, doors and lamp bulbs were among the motifs of these new paintings. The first exhibition of these works was in 1970; it caused a scandal, with many critics accusing him of "betraying" abstract art. This volume accompanies an exhibition at the Schirn Kunsthalle in Frankfurt, marking the 100th anniversary of Guston’s birth and presenting a selection of some 40 works from what was his most exciting period. Also gathered here are many of Guston’s "poem-pictures," made in collaboration with writers such as Clark Coolidge, William Corbett and Bill Berkson.
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