Art: Ku Klux Komix

"I got sick and tired of all that purity! I wanted to tell stories!" Thus Philip Guston, whose tremulous gestural paintings established him, from 1951 onward, as one of the leading Abstract Expressionists. His current show at Manhattan's Marlborough Gallery is indeed a change. The old Guston is barely recognizable. The patches and drifts of color, tentatively knitted rather than brushed—like magnified details of a Monet seen through gray glass—have gone.

At 57. Guston has returned to painting figures. He has also turned political. It may seem a little late in the century to mount an entire exhibition on the theme of...

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