August 12, 2013
Time Out New York
"Jack Goldstein x 10,000"
By Joseph R. Wolin
In the 1980s, Jack Goldstein’s Photorealist paintings of lightning storms and other luminous phenomena made an indelible impression. Copied from found photographs and impeccably airbrushed by assistants, Goldstein’s images of spectacular, ephemeral events (usually against night skies) form the center of this compact yet fascinating survey. These untitled paintings—such as one dated 1983, featuring a stark horizon under green clouds being struck by knots of forked lightning at opposite ends of the canvas—were among the most provocatively beautiful of their time, a period when beauty itself was suspect as a tool of patriarchal repression. But, untouched by the artist’s hand, they seemed equally challenging as illustrations of the “death of the author,” philosopher Roland Barthes’s influential idea that literary texts were cultural constructs rather than transparent instantiations of a writer’s intention and biography.
As this may suggest, Goldstein was a charter member of the “Pictures Generation,” a group of artists interested in appropriating images from popular culture for deconstructive purposes. Like several of them, he studied at CalArts under John Baldessari. He made forays into Minimalist sculpture and performance art, but a series of short films from the mid-1970s led to his inclusion in curator Douglas Crimp’s defining Artists Space exhibition, “Pictures,” in 1977. Produced by hired Hollywood professionals, these works sometimes took other moving images as their starting points. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (1975), for example, comprises a three-minute sequence of the MGM lion roaring over and over again in a stuttering loop, announcing a movie that never begins. Others stage slightly dopey, unassuming events and infuse them with pregnant hints of story lines. In The Knife (1975), an ordinary table utensil changes color and emotional tenor as, one by one, monochromatic lights play over its surface, starting with a suspenseful bloody red. Art like this, or the artist’s vinyl records composed from stock sound effects, appeared to take apart and examine the workings of movies and narrative structures in order to defuse their power. In The Jump, a 1978 film that opens the exhibition, glittering lights fill the isolated silhouette of a diver in motion (taken, it turns out, from Leni Riefenstahl’s Nazi epic Olympia), not only creating an enigmatic fragment of transient, if faintly sinister, grace, but also pointing the way to Goldstein’s paintings. Read More.