John Yau: Pollock and Guston were friends, and they were also rivals. While each admired the other, they were in some way deeply envious and competitive. Pollock got to abstraction before Guston. He emptied space out of painting or, as Willem de Kooning said, he “broke the ice” when he seemed to have vehemently declared, in the eyes of some of his champions, that paint was paint. Pollock began his “drip” paintings in 1947, and in 1948 Guston won the Prix de Rome and spent a year in the American Academy in Rome. At this point in their careers, they could not have been further apart.
It took another five years for Guston to jettison his traditional paintings and become an abstract artist, which he did with “Red Painting” (1950). It was during this period that Guston also got rid of everything but the line in his drawings. Rendering, modeling, shading and all the other methods that we associate with traditional drawing — things that Guston could do well — were no longer called upon.
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