Oil on canvas
Framed: 170 x 195 x 4.5 cm (66 15/16 x 76 3/4 x 1 3/4 in.); Unframed: 168.2 x 193 cm (66 1/4 x 76 in.)
© The Estate of Philip Guston
Contemporary Collection of The Cleveland Museum of Art 1961.21
Sleeper I exemplifies Philip Guston's pursuit of abstraction, which occupied him for 20 years of his five-decade career. Although he broke away from his heroic figurative style during the late 1940s, suggestions of objects or figures persist in the heavy strokes of muddy black paint applied to his abstract canvases. In Sleeper I, the pinkish-gray halftones convey a gentle mood of reverie that is interrupted by dark, oppressive forms and streamers of red erupting from the center. If the painting can be considered a direct expression of the artist's feelings, it suggests that Guston's view of the world had taken on an ominous tone. Often feeling conflicted and ambivalence about abstraction, he declared that "Doubt itself . . . becomes a form." By 1970 he returned to a representational, often cartoon-like style that shows traces of his early years as a mural painter.
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