description of For M. by Philip Guston

This abstract oil painting, over six feet tall and six feet wide, features a tangle of brick-red slashes strewn with clots of black, floating against a field of pink. The tangle contains thick paint and wild brushstrokes, and hovers at the center of the nearly square canvas like an uprooted island at sunset. In the background is a sea of muted pinks and pastel peaches. Near the bottom of the canvas, the background has been rendered with the same intense energy as the tangle itself. Above the tangle, however, the paint is lighter, and much smoother, and appears almost mottled or dappled. [THIS DESCRIPTION INCLUDES INFORMATION ABOUT THE SCULPTURE (OR STRUCTURE) ITSELF, NOT JUST THE IMAGE PROVIDED] This sculpture, or structure, is a ten-foot-long black box with nine [ten?] separate peepholes. Inside the first peephole, moving from our left to right, is a black-and-white photograph of a nude woman. She sits, facing us, with her hands on the tops of her thighs. Her shoulders are narrow, her hips are wide, and there is a thin horizontal fold in the flesh above her navel. In the second peephole, the same photograph is shown, only the figure appears closer to us. Now the subject’s head and feet have been cut out of the frame. In each subsequent peephole, the woman appears closer and closer, as if we are zooming in on her. By the third peephole the woman is shown from shoulders to knees, and in the fourth from breasts to thighs. In the sixth peephole we are presented with the woman’s midsection from the top of her pubic hair to the shadow of her breasts. By the tenth and final peephole the woman’s navel and the fold in the flesh above it fill the entire frame.

Philip Guston, For M., 1955
Philip Guston, For M., 1955; oil on canvas, 76 3/8 in. x 72 1/4 in. (193.99 cm x 183.52 cm); Collection SFMOMA, Anonymous gift, Los Angeles; © The Estate of Philip Guston

Artwork Info

Artwork title
For M.
Artist name
Philip Guston
Date created
oil on canvas
76 3/8 in. x 72 1/4 in. (193.99 cm x 183.52 cm)
Date acquired
Collection SFMOMA
Anonymous gift, Los Angeles
© The Estate of Philip Guston
Permanent URL
Artwork status
On view on floor 2 as part of Open Ended: Painting and Sculpture Since 1900 (2018)

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