Philip Guston

Philip Guston: Collected Writings, Lectures, and Conversations, edited by Clark Coolidge. Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2010. 352 pages. $30.

PHILIP GUSTON’S CAREER swung like a dangling lightbulb—from figuration (starting in 1930) to abstraction (around 1948) and back to figuration (from 1968 until his death in 1980). Yet he often insisted on the continuity of his work. In 1958, when asked about the “change in approach” in the late ’40s, he remarked, “I really don’t believe in change.” In 1979, a year of outlandish paintings such as Moon, which shows the artist at work in a barren, spider-infested landscape, Guston looked back to White Painting #1, 1951, a languid amalgam of abstract strokes that he had painted without stepping back to appraise it: “I feel as if I am the same painter I was then.”

If you find the artist’s protestations of continuity hard to believe, Philip

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