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Philip Guston: Slipping through My Fingers

April 12, 2011

Philip Guston. Residue, 1971. Oil on paper. Private Collection. © Estate of Philip Guston; image courtesy McKee Gallery, New York, NY

After giving 3 hour-long tours of Philip Guston, Roma, I’ll be honest; I have trouble with his artwork. Guston’s paintings are profoundly personal statements with objects that I recognize. Almost as soon as I see them I can say: I see a shoe; I see a fountain; I see a hood. Yet as soon as I think I understand what he wants to communicate, it slips through my fingers. His meanings are multi-veiled and intangible. I get that looking at art is not just about “getting it.”  But I keep coming back to Guston’s enigmas, and I’m puzzled; I’m asking new questions; I’m talking about it; I’m confused. One thing is for sure—I’m engaged.

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