Additional Book Information
Series: NYRB Classics
Publication Date: April 5, 2022
Guston in Time
by Ross Feld
Ross Feld, a young poet, novelist, and critic, was one of the few reviewers of Guston's show to write favorably about it. Guston responded with a grateful note—"I felt . . . as if we knew each other and had many discussions about painting and literature. In a word—I felt recognition"—and a new friendship was soon born. Feld became an inveterate visitor to the painter's studio—the two would sit up late at night hashing over what Guston had or hadn't achieved—and an inspiration to his work. Guston in Time, written not long before Feld's early death from cancer, is a portrait of Guston the man, of his wife Musa, a major figure not only in the artist's life but in his work, and a reckoning with his supremely individual achievement as an artist. Feld's slim and resonant book is a work of art in its own right.
These two high-octane minds in dialogue, in deep, respectful friendship, resound in their letters like a piano sonata for four hands that's part Schubert, part Busoni. And then there's the enclosing arch of Feld's visionary evocation of Guston's quest and Guston's vulnerability. . . This is a beautiful, mysterious, generous book.
Guston's art never goosestepped in time to aesthetic orthodoxy. Neither does Ross Feld's exhilarating, stylistically-inventive book. Part criticism, part memoir, part meditation on art and death, Guston In Time is a revealing portrait of not only the painter, but of a passionate friendship. "We are necessary absolutely to each other," Guston declared to Feld. Witnessing this duet of ferocious yet generous intelligences, we can see why. Feld argues that to create, an artist must both expose himself and hide—often at the same time. What a privilege it is to share both men's creative processes.
This irresistible hybrid—part memoir, part art criticism, part biography, part meditation on death—employs language with such richness that it seems a species of prose poetry. The combination of Feld's startlingly insightful writing with the astonishing candor of Guston's letters, is unique and compelling. . . . Looked at one way, this book is a small, perfect elegy; looked at another, it is an even more complicated achievement. The three modes that Feld nominates as central to Guston's art—"theatrical, asymmetrically plural and philosophical"—are Feld's own strengths as well and this book fairly vibrates with their considered application.
Friendships and devoted correspondents across various disciplines give us a special glimpse into why we are all involved in this thing called culture. The Guston-Feld correspondences have the immediacy and urgency that we usually experience only in artists' studios in front of new work or over drinks and a pack of cigarettes throwing around new ideas. Reading this book you can taste the scotch and smell the smoke, and feel the ideas forming.