Shortly before his death in June 1980, Philip Guston collaborated with the renowned print studio, Gemini G.E.L., on a suite of twenty-five lithographs. These prints perfectly manifest the bold, figurative style of Guston's late work, which had sent shockwaves through the art world in 1970 as a radical departure from his trademark abstract expressionism. Like his late paintings and drawings, the Gemini editions are brooding ruminations of Guston's personal life, depicting everyday objects found in his studio, like shoes, chairs, easel, brushes and flatirons, as well as heads, eyes, and knobby-kneed legs. Gemini G.E.L. at Joni Moisant Weyl will have a selection of these Guston lithographs on view from May 14 – July 11, 2008.
The collaboration between Guston and Gemini began in November 1979, when Gemini co-founder Sidney Felsen and master printer Serge Lozingot visited the artist's studio in Woodstock, New York. Due to Guston's poor health, the Gemini studio was essentially transported to the artist's studio, with Gemini providing aluminum litho plates and transfer papers for Guston to draw and experiment with at his leisure. While he had dabbled in making a handful of prints in the 1960s, as a guest artist at Tamarind in 1963 and Hollanders Workshop, Inc. in 1966, Guston began this project without any real experience in printmaking. During their visit in November, Lozingot showed Guston how to work with various lithography materials like crayon and tusche.
Guston approached this printmaking project with great enthusiasm and was enormously productive, drawing 40 images in all between December 1979 to February 1980, from which 25 were ultimately resolved, printed and published. Throughout his career, Guston viewed drawing as a germinating process, where ideas could be resolved prior to painting. Often he would draw in the middle of the night, after waking up with wild imagery in his head. The Gemini editions are thus deeply autobiographical. Coat, with shoes tucked under the arms like loaves of bread, certainly can be interpreted as Guston's self-portrait, and Car reminds one of Guston's days driving around Los Angeles with his high-school companion, Jackson Pollock.
The Private Eye of Philip Guston: The Gemini Editions serves as an excellent complement to the Guston drawings retrospective, Philip Guston: Works on Paper, on view at the Morgan Library from May 2 – August 31, 2008.