New York

Philip Guston

The Morgan Library & Museum

The supposedly big change in Philip Guston’s art occurred in the late 1960s, when he switched from his refined, “tender-minded” version of “action painting” to a cartoonlike imagery of hooded figures, familiar objects (fruit, shoes, body parts), and social settings. He eschewed gestural expression in favor of quasi-surreal scenes—absurd juxtapositions, of a cyclopean head and an empty liquor bottle, for example, or, more morbidly, of legs and feet with hobnailed shoes, their soles facing us, in a barren room—and clumsily executed illustration. As the artist put it, according to a wall text at the Morgan, he was sick and tired of “purity,” and turned to “narrative” in acknowledgment of what he once called the “cruelties of holocausts” and their innumerable victims—the “unbearable” sadism of the world. He became a “witness of the hell,” and used humor to defend against it and maintain a

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