Jack Goldstein (1945-2003)
acrylic on canvas
84 x 107¾ in. (213.3 x 273.6 cm.)
Painted in 1983.
Josh Baer Gallery, New York
Normal, University Galleries, Illinois State University and Indianapolis, Herron Gallery, Herron School of Art, White Light, January-February 2001.
New York, Metro Pictures, Jack Goldstein Paintings: 1980-1985, April-May 2005.
In his legendary essay on the 1977 Pictures exhibition at Artists Space in New York, Douglas Crimp deemed Jack Goldstein--filmmaker, musician, photographer and performance artist--to be the most prominent and most paradigmatic appropriation artist. And with that, reactionary as ever, Goldstein decided to start painting and continued through the remainder of his life so that many believed that Goldstein was a painter first and foremost.
In 1981, Jack Goldstein first presented his paintings at Metro Pictures, coinciding with the rise of Neo-Expressionism in New York (David Salle, Julian Schnabel and Francesco Clemente would all come to be known as part of this group). But Goldstein's canvases managed to do something totally different:
"In painting, he found possibly the most prominent and symbolically laden site at which to enact his disappearance; hence, his paintings were also perceived as depersonalized and very detached. Goldstein amplified the smoothness of the source image by having his pictures painted with an airbrush. Airbrushing enabled him to reproduce the illusion of photographic transparency; it suggested objectivity and, as Goldstein once said, 'with airbrush, one always has the same distance to the canvas. One isn't making marks, one isn't leaving traces, it's air.' At the beginning, the black background of the paintings posed the greatest problem. Looking at paintings by Ellsworth Kelly, Barnett Newman and Brice Marden in New York museums, he noticed they all had surface irregularities because they had been painted with a brush, while he saw himself 'coming out of California car culture using a spray gun'" (P. Kaiser, "Why Not Use It? Painting and its Burden," Jack Goldstein X 10,000, exh. cat, Munich, 2012, pp. 126-127).
In Untitled, the universal topic of disaster feels totally relevant while simultaneously, there lies a sense of ambiguity without the weight of disaster. The viewer senses a kind of arbitrariness in Goldstein's work that is fully conscious of its beauty and elegance. His presentation is about the distance between beauty and the dark side of human and natural events, how they come together through a kind of poetic sublimation. Despite its vintage, the eerie landscape painting features stunning atmospheric lights, which look surprisingly fresh. The artist's airbrush technique was ahead of its time, presaging the look of computer-generated virtual reality long before it became commonplace.
Executed meticulously, the present painting revels in a dialectical oscillation between critical modes, exemplified by the status of the image as always mediated by technology, and the heroic sublime of the subject matter. It is also a reinstatement and deep belief in the power of painting, juxtaposed with performance and land art happening in the late 1970s (Walter De Maria's, The Lightning Field, 1977). A response to Jack Goldstein's paintings written by Jean Fisher:
Maintaining the work in the field of literality rather than abstraction involves considerable risk; there is a fine line between the image's success as revelation and its failure, its becoming a kind of pornography--a voyeuristic spectacle--or just banal sci-fi fantasy. But it is precisely here that Goldstein's pictures are radical--in their ambivalence and discursivity, their obstinate refusal to specify meaning, allowing it to hover dangerously at peripheries, opening a fissure in our expectations of representation (J. Fisher, "Jack Goldstein: The Trace of Absence" Artforum, June 1983, pp. 61-63.)