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Philip Guston: an Artist Who Dared Draw Things You Can Recognize

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WHEN Philip Guston was in his late 50s, he did a daring thing: After attaining great success with his abstract style of painting, he went back to figurative painting. At the time, he was severely criticized for that; he was going against the popular tide.

Since his death in 1980, however, Guston's later works have become his most celebrated.

``Philip Guston: 50 Years of Painting,'' the first full-scale retrospective of the artist's work, is now at the Dallas Museum of Art (through Jan. 14). The exhibition documents Guston's three stages of painting with more than 60 works dating from 1930 to 1979.

Like other mid-20th-century artists, Guston moved from figurative painting into abstract painting. But, unlike his colleagues, he returned to figuration, concentrating on recognizable yet unrealistic cartoon-like images. These late works are prominent in this fascinating exhibition put together by curator Mark Rosenthal for the Cultural Ministry of Spain. (Guston is often compared to Goya and Picasso.) Dallas is the second and final stop on the American leg of the tour, organized by the St. Louis Art Museum.

Guston was born in Montreal, the youngest of seven children. His parents were Russian Jewish emigres. He grew up in Los Angeles and attended the Manual Arts School, where he befriended Jackson Pollack. During the '30s and '40s, he was a Works Progress Administration muralist, having been inspired by the Mexican murals of the time.

By 1950, he had moved to New York and embarked on a new style which, along with the work of Pollack, Willem de Kooning, and Franz Kline, was tagged Abstract Expressionism. That style is represented here by such works as ``Room 112,'' ``The Mirror,'' ``For M,'' and ``The Year.'' Red became a color Guston would favor for the rest of his life.

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