Robert Guinan, the painter of the other Chicago

Lyons. Robert Guinan (1934-2016) took the splits in his artistic practice. On two counts. On the one hand, after having explored abstract expressionism and pop art, synonymous with the omnipresent modernity in the United States, he turned, from the 1970s, to counter-current painting, which one could describe, for lack of a better word, as realistic. On the other hand, in the triumphant America of the 1960s and 1970s, which saw the emergence of a society of abundance and unbridled consumption, he chose to represent the excluded, marginalized people often belonging to the black community. Fascinated by jazz, he frequents the bars of musicians, guided by his friend and musician Emile Breda. It is in these places that Guinan finds his subjects, an impressive gallery of characters represented in motionless poses. We will never know if these solitary figures meditate on their condition or if they are caught up in the music. In both cases, they seem elsewhere, indifferent to the passage of time (Geraldine, 1987). Sometimes it is the musicians themselves, completely absorbed in their performance (very beautiful drawing by the flautist Nikki Mitchell, 2000). Although this fascination for portraits of the underprivileged sometimes borders on clichés of a certain miserabilism, Guinan’s work has the great merit of telling another story of the United States. You have to go back to the period of the Great Depression to find artists who are interested in this social stratum, absent from the artistic field.

References to European painting – Toulouse-Lautrec, Degas – are assumed without interfering with the plastic language of Guinan. The same goes for the connections with Edward Hopper and his cities emptied of human presence. But the suburbs of Hopper, these places of habitat of an almost exclusively white middle class, are far removed from the suburbs staged by Guinan. North Avenue Light (1980-1981) is the representation of a district where live those who precisely do not have the right to the image.

Similar Posts