San Francisco

Philip Morsberger

Rena Bransten Gallery

Philip Morsberger’s work often passes pretty much unnoticed, except by other painters. It is open to misreading as the work of a younger artist under the influence of Philip Guston. His pictures do resemble Guston’s late work in their collisions of high craft and wonky imagery. But Morsberger, who is in his 50s, has decades of painting behind him. He moved to California a couple of years ago from England, where—though he is American—he was Ruskin Master of Drawing at Oxford.

Morsberger peoples his paintings with cartoonish figures that share the canvas space but mostly appear as unaware of each other as the squares and triangles in a hard edge abstraction. He treats some of these figures as though they are characters in an undisclosed narrative; some might be symbols of the artist himself, such as the unicorned figure that strides on air, cigarette in hand, through Blithe Spirit #2, 1984–88.

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