Phillip Guston was a painter and print maker back in his day. In the late 1960’s, he helped to leaed a transitional movement from abstract expressionism to neo-expressionism in painting. This required an abandonment of the “pure abstraction” of abstract expressionism, in transition to a more cartoonish rendering of images and objects.
Guston was born in 1930 in Mortreal, Canada, but at a young age he and his family left Canada for Los Angeles, California. Guston studied with Jackson Pollock at the Los Angeles Manuel Arts High School, under Frederick John de St. Vrain Schwankovsky. Guston's early work was figurative and representational. His mother supported his artistic inclinations, and he often made drawings in a small closet, lit by a hanging bulb. Apart from his high school education and a one-year scholarship at the Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles, Guston remained a largely self-taught artist. In the 1950s, Guston achieved success and renown as a first-generation abstract expressionist. During this period his paintings often consisted of blocks and masses of gestural strokes and marks of color floating within the picture plane.
In 1967, Guston moved to Woodstock, New York. He was increasingly frustrated with abstraction and began painting representationally again, but in a rather personal, cartoonish manner. The first exhibition of these new figurative paintings was held in 1970 at the Marlborough Gallery in New York. It received scathing reviews from most of the art establishment.