Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Darker, Denser, Messier

By 1954, a significant shift was already present in the abstract paintings, his palette had darkened and his textures had thickened. The abstractions emerged from a grayer, darker field, but there was a clotting, things became denser, characterized by a spooky, anxious geometry. The density was centrally focused, cohering into messy black squares. It was as if the dynamic forces of Guston’s paintings were condensing and concentrating rather than dispersing. This core could be read as the frustrated desire for representation and narrative meaning – he generated pictures through slow manual gestures that still seemed to contain the residue of politically aware, socially conscious narratives, recognizable objects from personal experience.

Guston wrote, presciently, in 1960, in the middle of his abstract period: “There is something ridiculous and miserly in the myth we inherit from abstract art: that painting is autonomous, pure and for itself and therefore we habitually define its ingredients and define its limits. But painting is “impure.” It is the adjustment of impurities which forces painting’s continuity. We are image-makers and image-ridden.”

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