Phillip Guston’s Scathing Nixon-era Comic Highlights Bonhams Modern & Contemporary Art Sale

Phillip Guston, Agnew Spiro. Courtesy Bonhams.

Among a group of artist outcasts living in Woodstock, New York in the early 1970s, famed postwar Ab-Ex-turned-figurative painter Philip Guston found a new creative energy by critiquing the fraught presidency of Richard Nixon. Following the release of his his close friend and Woodstock neighbor Philip Roth’s book Our Gang, Guston produced a notorious series of seething political cartoons. A drawing from the period—eviscerating Nixon’s then Vice President, Spiro T. Agnew—carrying an estimate of $25,000-35,000 will come to auction in Bonhams Modern and Contemporary Art sale slated run from May 13-27.

The 1971 cartoon series of 180 drawings included satirical renderings of the 37th President’s trusted inner circle of Henry Kissinger, Spiro Agnew, and Attorney General John Mitchell. In the “Poor Richard” series, Guston established themes and motifs that would drive Guston’s late-period paintings featuring hooded Klansmen and severed limbs. The drawing series had a recent survey at Hauser & Wirth’s Los Angeles gallery titled ‘Resilience: Philip Guston in 1971’. 

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