PRINT May 2003


On the occasion of the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth’s traveling retrospective “PHILIP GUSTON,” Artforum asked art historian DAVID ANFAM to examine the career of a painter whose “untimely” return to storytelling pointed the way “back to the future.”

LIKE MANY A GOOD STORY, Philip Guston’s art starts in earnest with a bang. Although Bombardment, 1937–38, was not Guston’s first work, it certainly marks his most significant point of departure. True, its overly “plastic” modeling recalls the monumentalizing Art Deco staginess of umpteen WPA murals long since faded into historical oblivion. But we also seem close to the freeze-frame action of comic strips. While this is perhaps Guston’s Guernica, there remains another sense in which it resembles a Roy Lichtenstein combat scene of the early ’60s—only an emblazoned “WHAAM!” is missing—time-warped back into the era of the Mexican muralists. Yet

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