Guston Pink & Komarin Pink

The subject of the use of the color pink by Philip Guston and Gary Komarin (me), who studied with Guston as a graduate teaching fellow in Boston in the mid 1970’s, comes up fairly often at exhibitions worldwide and studio visits by museum curators, collectors, critics and friends. Guston’s use of pink is very different from mine. It may stem in part from a certain ‘cartooniness’ in Guston’s work and mine, but that is where the similarities end. Guston uses pink in a darker and grimmer fashion, as the skin is peeled back to reveal the raw pink matter underneath where blood and pink membranes commingle under the outer skin. Historically, one thinks of such pivotal paintings such as ‘The Flaying of Marsyas’ by Titian in 1575, where a horned creature (Marsyas) is hung upside down and its outer skin sliced off as punishment for his sins. Guston had what I would call a tragically comic and rather dark vision of human kind and the human condition. He had lost a brother in a car accident whose legs had to be amputated followed by the spread of gangrene. I too lost a brother to leukemia when he turned 25, very shortly before I met Guston, but my use of pink is more life embracing, while still cartoony at times, as I was an avid reader of comic books and avid chewer of pink bubble gum as a kid growing up in New York in the 1950’s. The pungent inks of comic books fresh off the press was very available to a kid with a dime in his pocket, this...

Large & Small

I have long wondered why some artists -whether they be painters, sculptors, photographers, or conceptual artists- choose to work large or small or perhaps somewhere in between. Some of the considerations for working large have to do with physical mechanics and how one navigates the space of a painting. Some artists use ladders or long handled brushes to make the painting itself. There are also issues of moving large artworks around from one corner of the studio to another or storing large scale works. Painting a large painting can be terrifically liberating. It might allow the artist to open up the space of a painting in a way that a small scale piece might not. Working large could encourage a wider arc, a bigger brushstroke or greater stretches of colour. On the other hand, a large painting could be intimidating and can start to feel like being swallowed up by the enormous and cavernous space. Painting a large painting can be terrifically liberating. It might allow the artist to open up the space of a painting in a way that a small scale piece might not. Working large could encourage a wider arc, a bigger brushstroke or greater stretches of colour. On the other hand, a large painting could be intimidating and can start to feel like being swallowed up by the enormous and cavernous space. Working small scale for a painter could allow for great intimacy. One can see the entire canvas in one breath and navigate the surface in minutes rather than hours. A smaller scale canvas can allow for the artist to see the whole and...
My Visit to See Francis Bacon Paintings at Gagosian New York

My Visit to See Francis Bacon Paintings at Gagosian New York

I recently attended the new Francis Bacon exhibition at Gagosian Gallery in New York. I was struck by how very powerful his paintings were and was unexpectedly pulled into them, having seen them many times. This most recent visit was intense in its grasp of my attention and emotion. Bacon is a most curious painter in that he combined a raw and gritty set of images against a beautifully painted and often serene backdrop. Combining the beautiful with the grotesque gives Bacon’s work an unexpected mystery and strength. Francis Bacon came from a design background and did a certain amount of set design early in his career. He had a way with color that was somewhat schizophrenic. The ‘set’ or ‘stage set,’ within which his figures writhe and twist and bend and scream, is painted in a fairly flat and beautifully coordinated way. It occurred to me during this visit how elegant were the backdrops, lean and clean and very much like a Motherwell painting in their sensitivity to flat planes of color and beautifully aligned edges. The creation of a proscenium sets the stage quite literally for the drama that is about to unfold. Within this ‘stage set,’ Bacon gives us figures that are anything but beautiful. Often grey and grisly, Francis Bacon’s figures are twisted and torn, whether sitting or stretched out on the floor. Bacon’s figures are bruised and bent, sometimes missing parts of their anatomy – as if the pressures of life have carved entire chunks of flesh away. Bacon was interested in diseases of the mouth and one sees in many of his paintings...
The Drip in Abstract Painting: To Drip Or Not To Drip?

The Drip in Abstract Painting: To Drip Or Not To Drip?

The Drip or the use of the Drip in Contemporary Abstraction is a complicated subject. It is natural for paint to drip. It is a liquid material, or can be made liquid to varying degrees and for anyone who has attempted to paint a house they will soon realize Paint will by its very nature drip. Throughout the world, in past cultures, the drip was not encouraged. It made little sense for a painter in prehistoric times, or the time of Christ or the Pre Renaissance or Post Renaissance to allow for drips in painting or a fresco or a mural. This diametric changed considerably with the beginnings of Abstract Painting in the early part of the 20th century. Painters began to see the drip as something with a certain ‘aliveness’ that might help to enhance the energy of a painting and this awareness of the drip came to center stage with Jackson Pollock in the later 40’s in New York, particularly when he moved from the warehouses of lower New York to the more open spaces of The Springs in East Hampton. Pollock had moved from painting with a brush to dripping the liquefied paint with sticks and brushes. He would lay the canvas flat on the floor and walk around the painting, losing track of inside and outside, top and bottom, east and west. There had been precedent for dripping paint amongst the Native American Indian sand painters earlier in the century, but Pollock took this dripping to new heights, in terms of complexity and scale, that had not been achieved before. The drip replaced the brushstroke:...