City Limits (1969) by Philip Guston

City Limits - Philip Guston - 1969

Artwork Information

TitleCity Limits
ArtistPhilip Guston
MediumOil on Canvas
Dimensions77 x 103 1/4 in.
Art MovementNeo-Expressionism
Current LocationEstate of Philip Guston

About City Limits

The artwork titled “City Limits,” created by artist Philip Guston in 1969, is an oil painting on canvas that is exemplary of the Neo-Expressionism art movement. It measures 77 by 103 1/4 inches and is classified within the cityscape genre. This work is a part of Guston’s renowned “Klansmen” series and is currently held in the estate of Philip Guston.

The artwork presents a somewhat abstract and cartoonish depiction of a vehicle, presumed to be a car or truck, set against a backdrop suggestive of a city environment. The central figure of the painting is a car painted in a deep, dark hue, dominating the foreground, with large, simplistically rendered wheels that take up a considerable portion of the canvas. The interior of the vehicle is occupied by figures resembling hooded Klansmen, rendered in a unique style characterized by Guston that utilizes thick lines and a limited color palette.

These Klansmen figures are crudely depicted, with oversized, rounded heads and pointed hoods. The cityscape in the background is minimally indicated by simple block-like structures representing buildings, drawn in unelaborated forms and maintaining the painting’s overall abstract simplicity. There is the use of predominantly red and pink tones throughout the composition, creating a stark contrast with the darker elements, such as the vehicle and figures.

Overall, the artwork delivers a powerful visual statement with its arresting imagery and highly personal iconography, effectively capturing a sense of critical commentary aligned with the socio-political context of the era. Guston’s distinctive approach to form and allegory challenges the viewer to decipher the implied narrative and confront the unsettling themes that are inherent in the composition.

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