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Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2012

The Riotous Experience of Philip Guston at Haggerty

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These days it's easy for art reviewers to "review" an exhibition without leaving their home, for who's to know if the writer actually visited and studied the work? Throw in a few glowing adjectives and images grabbed from a website, and why bother attending any art exhibition?

But if it's a Philip Guston exhibition, such as "Inevitable Finality: The Gemini G.E.L. Prints," and if it's at the Haggerty Museum of Art, it's certainly not a bother. I saw my first Guston painting at the Art Institute of Chicago, and it was awesome in scope and content, a riotous scumble of body parts and other parts in an R.-Crumb-meets-Dr.-Seuss mode. It suggested we are both disposable and replaceable.

I'm here to reaffirm that nothing can replace an in-your-face experience. The museum guard, a Marquette civil engineering student by the name of Andre Ghelfi-Thomas, was pondering Guston's framed-in-white lithographs. We stood in front of The Artist, wondering if the image of a battered and patched-together artist was Guston himself. Prior to his 1980 death, Guston collaborated with fine art publisher Gemini G.E.L. to produce this series, titled "Inevitable Finality," a return to drawing, his first love. Famous for his Abstract Expressionist painting (a tangle of lines), these litho lines are as robust and simple as the objects depicted, be they rug, car or coat.

And it's all on display for free, through May 20; plus, a smart, informative catalog is also free. In nearby spaces, Tina Barney rocks the majestic with her photographs, and in an intimate room adjacent to the entry lobby, photographer John Stezaker scrambles past and present via collage.