A Letter to Ross Feld by Philip Guston

by cjdown

Philip Guston, Entrance, 1979

Philip Guston, Entrance, 1979

I think that because of teaching – having a ‘career’ – being in the ‘real’ world, with dopey minds, who can only ‘argue for more’ or ‘bargain for less’ as you say – that this makes it easier for me to become infected with the linear thinking found in universities – and  elsewhere too. I begin to wobble – wonder if I am reaching for the invisible too much – and in tottering like this, I am prone to settle for ‘less’. And luckily for me, ‘less’ sticks in my stomach like a sour thing until my ‘ideal’, that I’ve always had but lose momentarily (could be that one should – needs – to have it slip away – in order to regain it) the ‘shimmering’ – ‘the dazzling gift’. I think you are writing about the generous law that exists in art. A law which can never be given but only found anew each time in the making of the work. It is a law, too, which allows your forms (characters) to spin away, take off, as if they have their own lives to lead – unexpected too – as if you cannot completely control it all. I wonder why we seek this generous law, as I call it. For we do not know how it governs – and under what special conditions it comes into being. I don’t think we are permitted to know other than temporarily. A disappearance act. The only problem is how to keep away from the minds that close in and itch (God knows why) to define it.
(Philip Guston in a letter to Ross Feld, Nov. 13, 1978, Guston in Time: remembering Philip Guston, p. 149)

Philip Guston, Moon, 1979

Philip Guston, Moon, 1979

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