Philip Guston


Painting, 76 x 81 cm.
Materials: acrylic on panel

Collection: Private Collection, Waalre (Netherlands).

Philip Guston was a Canadian-American painter who was part of the New York School of artists together with other abstract expressionist painters such as Willem de Kooning and Jackson Pollock. In the 1960s, he transitioned into making neo-expressionist paintings, which were figurative and cartoonish, using a personal lexicon of symbols and objects, which became his best-known paintings. From 1968, he developed his lexicon of symbols, which included Ku Klux Klansmen, shoes, cigarettes and lightbulbs, amongst other things. Many of the symbols were biographical, giving his paintings an existential character. His parents were Ukranian Jews who fled persecution in Odessa, Ukraine, and moved first to Canada where he was born, and then to Los Angeles. He and his family knew of the activities of the Ku Klux Klan against Jewish and black people in California, and in 1923, the young Guston found his father had hanged himself in the shed, possibly due to persecution. The painting Law depicts a Klansman looking at an open red book. On the one hand lugubrious and outlandish, the painting can also be seen to reflect on injustice in the face of white supremacy.

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