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In the years following his controversial 1970 exhibition at the Marlborough Galleries, Philip Guston was generally viewed as yesterday's scandal, a maverick who had abandoned abstract expressionism and, with it, the adulation of the art world. Few paid serious attention to the disturbing, profound work he was producing in his Woodstock studio. So when Ross Feld, a young novelist and critic, wrote a penetrating review of Guston's latest show, the artist sent him a letter of appreciation: I felt...as if we knew each other and had had many discussions about painting and literature. In a word - I felt great recognition.
Thus began a remarkable friendship, Feld, a frequent visitor to Guston's studio where the two men would talk late into the night, became Guston's intellectual sparring partner and sounding board - I'll shout it right out, Guston wrote to Feld, you inspire me to paint again! - as well as the artist's most eloquent critic and champion. Guston in Time in Feld's final tribute, and it is at once a testament to a friendship, a provocative and richly nuanced study of one of the twentieth century's most important artists, and a portrait of a remarkable character.
Feld illuminates Guston's key relationships, with wife Musa and composer Morton Feldman, and brings the man himself to life in all his exasperating complexity: Omnivorous, narcissistic, brilliant, sometimes verbally fluent to the point of glibness and flattery, horridly lonely, someone for whom nothing was enough and too much at the same swamping moment. Feld's evocation of Guston's late, figurative works is equally memorable and acute.