With regard to the postponed Philip Guston Now retrospective, there has been real progress in conversations with the directors of the four host museums over the past few weeks. Assurances have been made to me, as the daughter of the artist and President of The Guston Foundation about the importance of sharing with the public the full sweep of Guston’s vision in ways that speak to us all in the present day.
While Philip Guston did indeed address racism at key points in his career, his condemnation of social injustice and violence encompassed examples as varied as the Holocaust, the Spanish Civil War, the horrors of the Inquisition, the calumny of the Nixon administration, and police brutality against anti-war demonstrators in 1968. I believe it is essential for the exhibition to contextualize the depth of my father’s social conscience, allowing the hooded figures and other imagery to reclaim their meaning, including but also moving beyond specific references to the Ku Klux Klan. Over his 50-year career, Guston’s art reflected many other personal and painterly dimensions, including works that show his love of Renaissance painting and the 20th century masters he revered, his celebration of the act of painting in itself, and the confessional intimacy and self-revelation of his late works, with their universal human themes.
What we need now, as so many have pointed out, is to actually see Philip Guston’s paintings and drawings in all their complexity, without reductive characterizations. So, I am cautiously optimistic that we will all have a chance to do just that, beginning in May of 2022 at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston. I thank all those who have expressed such enthusiasm for my father’s work and have called for Philip Guston Now to go forward. Your support has sustained me during a difficult time. I hope to join you in celebrating the retrospective when it opens.