Philip Guston is remembered as one of the major innovators of abstract expressionism. Born in Canada in 1913, his parents emigrated from Russia shortly after his birth. During his high school years in Los Angeles, he developed a friendship with Jackson Pollock, who influenced Guston’s decision to change his last name from Goldstein to Guston.
At first, Guston was a figurative painter and then shifted towards working with abstract expressionism. After becoming disheartened by the lack of direction in the field of abstract painting, he returned to representation and gave it a personal touch inspired by his childhood memories of the Russian Revolution. His work ‘To B.W.T.’ – Phillip Guston – 1952 is a prime example of this period of transition between abstraction and figuration.
The Studio – Philip Guston – 1969 is one of the most remarkable artworks from this period which fully embraced visualization and realism with an intense level of scrutiny on society’s issues and identity crisis at that time. He thoughtfully delved into issues such as racism, sexism and severe class disparities depicted through anthropomorphic coffins or hooded figures which are at once reminiscent yet incongruous with their context. The Studio remains a significant statement in art history for its bold representation and unique vision that changed our ideas about what painting could be.