In Praise of Painting’s Ambiguity

In his Hyperallergic article, In Praise of Painting’s Ambiguity, writer and critic John Yau responds to an email he received following his review of artist Amy Bennett’s exhibition at Miles McEnery Gallery. 

In his article, he discusses Philip Guston’s rejection of abstraction throughout the late 1960s. During a lecture at the University of Minnesota in 1978, Guston said that he had grown tired of a certain ambiguity stemming from the late 40s and 50s.

“I think that probably the most potent desire for a painter, an image maker, is to see it. To see what the mind can think and imagine, to realize it for oneself, through oneself, as concretely as possible. I think that’s the most powerful and at the same time the most archaic urge that has endured for about twenty-five thousand years.” 

Yau explains that Guston viewed a painter as an image maker, and that an image could be abstract or representational coming from anything and anywhere. Like Bennett drawing inspiration from Thornton Wilder’s Our Town, she brings it to the present moment, all while keeping the painting open.