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The Haggerty exhibition Philip Guston Inevitable Finality, The Gemini G.E.L. Prints presents for the first time, in one museum, all 25 lithographs created in the last months of the artist’s life. As a collection, the works reveal Guston’s lifelong passion for drawing, his return to the figurative, and his deep appreciation of the immediacy and liveliness inherent in drawings.
Guston began his experimentation as an artist while a high school student in California. In his 20s and 30s he often painted works with political themes influenced by a range of works from Renaissance painters to Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. In the 1950s, Guston joined his high school classmate Jackson Pollock as members of the first generation of American Abstract Expressionists. He enjoyed success as an abstract painter but abandoned pure abstraction in the late 1960s, in favor of a return to figurative painting stating, “I got sick and tired of all that Purity! I wanted to tell stories.” In response, he created a vocabulary of cartoonish dystopian protagonists that he called “Hoods,” featuring heads with cyclopean eyes and disembodied limbs. Drawn in heavy black outlines, these disturbing yet humorous figures evoke the comic-strip characters of the 1920s and ’30s he so admired.
In the late 1970s, a decade after Guston returned to figuration, having refined his new lexicon, Sidney Felsen, cofounder of Gemini G.E.L., a printmaking workshop in Los Angeles, approached Guston about creating a new series of prints. Since Guston was in poor health at the time, Gemini transported aluminum lithographic plates and transfer paper to the artist’s studio in Woodstock, New York, to allow Guston to work on the prints as he continued with other projects. Simple and crudely drawn, the imagery of these prints often came to the artist in the middle of the night. Spontaneous and quite personal, Guston’s prints feature images of objects found in his studio—a chair, an easel, a set of paintbrushes—along with fantastic forms that defy easy interpretation.
In addition to the Gemini prints, this exhibition includes a series of photographs of Guston in his studio by Felsen, also a photographer and author of The Artist Observed: Photographs by Sidney B. Felsen.
The Guston exhibition is funded with support from the Stackner Family Endowment Fund, the Emmett J. Doerr Endowment Fund, the John P. Raynor, S.J. Endowment Fund, the Haggerty Art Associates and the Wisconsin Arts Board.
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 15, 2012
Lecture by James Reid, master printer at Gemini G.E.L.
Mr. Reid will discuss his work with Philip Guston, Ellsworth Kelly and Richard Serra.
6 p.m., 7 p.m. reception
Free and open to the public.
All programs take place at the Haggerty unless otherwise noted.