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Guston in Time

Remembering Philip Guston

List Price: $15.95

November 8, 2011 | Paperback | 5 x 8, 172 Pages | ISBN 9781582437828
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“These two high-octane minds in dialogue, in deep, respectful friendship, resound in their letters like a piano sonata for four hands that’s part Schubert, part Busoni... This is a beautiful, mysterious, generous book.” —Susan Sontag, author of Illness as Metaphor

In the years following his controversial 1970 exhibition at the Marlborough Galleries, Philip Guston was generally viewed as yesterday’s scandal, a maverick who abandoned abstract expressionism and fell out of favor with 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 many discussions about painting and literature. In a word—I felt 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 is Feld’s final tribute with a new introduction from Richard Howard, 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.

About Ross Feld

ROSS FELD is the author of four novels, a book of criticism, and a collection of poetry. He is the recipient of a Pushcart Prize, as well as fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the MacDowell Colony. He lived for years in Cincinnati, where he died in May 2001.


“Unlike my friend Richard Howard, I never had the good fortune to meet Ross Feld—just admired him, intensely, from afar. What a describer, what an intelligence! Here is a writer who, whatever the subject, is incapable of commonplace responses and diction. (Randall Jarrell is another.) His last, singular book is essential Feld: a thrilling, giddy rush of subtle, mature judgments. But never was Feld’s acuity so partnered as here; Guston, of course, is no mean subject. These two high-octane minds in dialogue, in deep, respectful friendship, resound in their letters like a piano sonata for four hands that’s part Schubert, part Busoni. And then there’s the enclosing arch of Feld’s visionary evocation of Guston’s quest and Guston’s vulnerability… This is a beautiful, mysterious, generous book.” —Susan Sontag, author of Illness as Metaphor

“Guston’s art never goosestepped in time to aesthetic orthodoxy. Neither does Ross Feld’s exhilarating, stylistically inventive book. Part criticism, part memoir, part meditation on art and death, Guston in Time is a revealing portrait of not only the painter, but of a passionate friendship. ‘We are necessary absolutely to each other,’ Guston declared of Feld. Witnessing this duet of ferocious yet generous intelligence, we can see why. Feld argues that to create, an artist must both expose himself and hide—often at the same time. What a privilege it is to share both men’s creative processes.” —Lisa Zeidner, author of Layover

“This irresistible book employs language with such richness that it seems a species of prose poetry. The combination of Feld’s startlingly insightful writing with the astonishing candor of Guston’s letters, is unique and compelling. Together they wrestle with their respective angels—words and images—but always the shadow of mortality hovers over them like smoke. This book is a small, perfect elegy.” —Robert Enright, author of Peregrination: 32 Conversations with Contemporary Artists

“Friendships and devoted correspondents across various disciplines give us a special glimpse into why we are all involved in this thing called culture. The Guston-Feld correspondences have the immediacy and urgency that we usually experience only in artists’ studios in front of new work or over drinks and a pack of cigarettes throwing around new ideas. Reading this book you can taste the scotch and smell the smoke, and feel the ideas forming.” —Michael Auping, chief curator at the Modern Art Museum of Forth Worth, and curator of the 2003 international Philip Guston retrospective

“The book is valuable, too, for the light it sheds on the often ill-understood reciprocal nature of the relationships between artists and critics. For just as it is clear that for Guston Feld’s articulate support was crucial, Guston’s responses to Feld’s criticism and other work seems just as important. Guston himself is abundantly present, not only in Feld’s reminiscences and the well-chosen illustrations, but in the many letters to Feld that are included. Such generosity is typical of this remarkable volume, which recalls Rilke’s Letters on Cezanne in its joyful intensity.” —Publishers Weekly

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