Philip Guston, Newly Discovered 1971 Footage

  • 9 October 2019

Never-before-seen footage of Philip Guston in 1971 with poet friend Clark Coolidge by documentary filmmaker Michael Blackwood is being shown for the first time in Los Angeles in the exhibition ‘Resilience: Philip Guston in 1971.’

In this clip, which features installation views from Hauser & Wirth Los Angeles, we see Guston with Coolidge in his Woodstock studio on 1 September 1971, discussing his Roma paintings, many of which are on view in the exhibition. Characterizing the changes emerging in his new work, Guston shares his insights on the Roma series, which he created in the wake of resounding negative reviews of his October 1970 Marlborough Gallery show: ‘Clumsy.’ ‘Embarrassing.’ ‘Simple-minded.’ ‘An exercise in radical chic.’ The New York Times headline referred to the artist as ‘A mandarin pretending to be a stumble-bum.’

After facing critical rejection, Guston and his wife left for Italy, taking up residency at the American Academy in Rome over the next seven months. He spent the first two months brooding, despairing at the reviews and the rigidity of the art world, and revisiting the great art of the past that had first moved him to paint as a young man. At the start of the new year, he finally set to work in his studio at the Academy. What emerged was a rich series of timeless oils on paper inspired by Roman ruins and landscapes.

‘You yourself see when you’re painting not only the present, but also the future. All the possibilities start reverberating.’

It was while Guston was at the American Academy in Rome that he met documentary filmmaker Blackwood and made arrangements for Blackwood to visit his studio at the end of August, following his return to Woodstock. Blackwood and his crew filmed for two days, capturing much of the footage later used for the hour-long film Philip Guston: A Life Lived, released in 1981. Curated by Musa Mayer, the artist’s daughter, ‘Resilience: Philip Guston in 1971’ is an exhibition that sheds light on a single pivotal year that marks a critical junction in Guston’s artistic career, telling a story of renewal, invention, and outrageous satire through two major series, the Roma paintings and the Nixon drawings, as well as a select group of larger paintings.

Philip Guston, Untitled (Roma), 1971

Film still of Philip Guston in his Woodstock studio, summer 1971, from footage by Michael Blackwood Productions

As part of the exhibition, the newly discovered 1971 footage from filmmaker Michael Blackwood of Guston and his poet friend, Clark Coolidge, discussing the Roma paintings, is being shown in a 19 minute film entitled ‘Moving in Another Direction.’ Additionally, the exhibition is accompanied by a new publication, which presents an essay authored by Mayer that offers an intimate view of her father’s state of mind during 1971. – ‘Resilience: Philip Guston in 1971' is on view at Hauser & Wirth Los Angeles through 5 January 2020. For more, also visit Michael Blackwood Productions.