Sunday, June 22, 2008
Went to see the Philip Guston drawing show at the Morgan Library yesterday. I've never been really taken with his work, either before or after his shift from abstraction to realism though I'd preferred the former and this show cemented that opinion. His line rubs me the wrong way; I was trying to capture it in a phrase and the best I could do was "nervous globularity".
It's too itchy for my taste and maybe too impositional in some sense. But there were several lovely pieces in the room devoted to his work through about 1967, including a few severely "limited" ones (single or double lines, single smudges, etc.) and a striking gouache (I think) of an open book, one of hundreds of that subject, dirty red on dirtier blue.
The second room contained drawings from his later years and, as much trouble as I had with many of the earlier works, that trouble was, as it always has been, greatly compounded with the "realist" ones. Realist in the sense of cartoon-y, I'm afraid. I kept hitting on R Crumb, a fine enough illustrator but, shall we say, not a graphic equivalent of Feldman (one could readily understand the composer's anger at Guston's shift). There were a couple of exceptions, including a poignant "Smoking in Bed" but by and large I found a kind of surrealist banality and really a lack of good drawing. Carol, my gallery companion, wondered if there was some degree of mental deterioration at play and if we weren't seeing documentation of that; perhaps--I don't know his story very well at all.
I hadn't been to the Morgan for many years, certainly not since the large addition to the grounds had been built. There was a wonderful exhibition from their collection of illuminated manuscripts, focusing on hunting and trapping scenes from a southern French volume dating from about 1407. Really beautiful work.
The Morgan also has a small painting collection, my personal favorite being this gorgeous Hans Memling:
Alan Licht/Aki Onda - Everydays (Family Vineyard)
Korber/Moslang/Chulkil/Muller/Yukie/Kahn/Sangtae/Hankil/Joonyang/Miryung - Signal to Noise, vol. 6 (For 4 Ears)
Martin Baumgartner - Shoots Huft (For 4 Ears)
Olivier Capparos/Lionel Marchetti - Livre des morts (entr'acte)