Düsseldorf

“Philip Guston: Paintings 1947–1979”

Kunstmuseum

Philip Guston accomplished the neat trick of painting with one eye on his past and the other on his future while looking only at the canvas in front of him. He once suggested, rather apologetically, that viewers of his new paintings should try to anticipate the ones that would follow. But he also said, “One never forgets anything, one never goes forward and forward, you are always moving in a circular way.” For an artist so aware of time, a retrospective is in some sense the ultimate work.

This puts a big burden on the curator. How to capture all those circlings and anticipations? “Philip Guston: Paintings 1947–1979” skips the first fifteen years of the artist’s career, from 1932 to 1946, when he was a precocious WPA muralist and then a prizewinning painter of oblique allegories, and opts to begin with his first abstract painting, The Tormentors, 1947–48. Here, fleeing his early success

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