American (Montreal, Canada, 1913-1980, Woodstock, N.Y.)
Beginning his career as a social realist painter influenced by the Mexican muralists,
Phillip Guston achieved fame in the 1950s as an abstract expressionist along with
his high school chum Jackson Pollock. However, abstraction was an uncomfortable fit
for Guston. His lyrical paintings of the period consisted of thickly painted, irregular
accretions of hovering white, gray, red and brown that seem to struggle toward becoming
In the mid-1960s he withdrew from the art scene, and reemerged in 1967 with stage
set images populated with clunky characters and props. Light bulbs, shoes, books,
cigars, disembodied limbs and eyes and hooded Klansmen regularly occupied his rooms.
The first show of this work elicited howls of scorn and withering ridicule from critics
who had been great supporters of his abstraction.
Guston taught at Skowhegan in 1947. When scholarship committee asked him for a print
in 1970, perhaps they hoped for one of the popular abstract works to help sell the
portfolio. Instead, he contributed "The Street," one of his first prints in the new
and abhorred style. Now, Guston's late work is greatly appreciated, highly sought
and overshadows regard for his still admired abstract expressionist painting.
Hours & Location
Monday – Saturday, 9 am to 5 pm
except between temporary exhibits
and on University holidays.
142 CFA Building
Memphis, TN 38152
Phone: (901) 678-2224
Fax: (901) 678-5118