PHILIP GUSTON • Robert Storr
Abbeville Press / 1986
Paperback / 128 pages 

The story of Philip Guston's life is, in many ways, a chronicle of the ideas and events that transformed American painting in this century. Having been a muralist in the 1930s, by the 1940s Guston had turned away from public art to explore a more private vision. These haunting tableaux gave way in the 1950s to shimmering abstractions that represent one of the most poetic contributions to Abstract Expressionism. In the last and most important decade of his life, Guston's work changed yet again, as he invented bizarre, cartoonlike characters to enact monstrously comic fantasies. This abrupt shift from abstraction to figuration enraged the art establishment, but it also helped embolden a younger generation of artists to risk a new style of painting that became known as Neo-Expressionism.