Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Going for the Gold

"Nearly a decade after Jack Goldstein’s suicide, his hungry ghost has yet to make peace with his artistic hometown, Los Angeles. One of the first casualties in the lurching institutional gearshift of Jeffrey Deitch’s arrival at L.A.’s Museum of Contemporary Art (culminating with Paul Schimmel’s unceremonious firing from his 22-year tenure as chief curator), “Jack Goldstein X 10,000” — the artist’s first North American retrospective, on view through September 9 — was shunted south, to the tony but off-the-beaten-track Orange County Museum of Art.

Back in the 1980s, OCMA was the Newport Beach Museum, where Schimmel cut his curatorial teeth and made his initial impact on the L.A. art scene. The circularity, careerist intrigue, and absurdity of the situation would probably have delighted Goldstein, though it might just as well have given him stomach cramps.

Goldstein’s name is unfamiliar to many, though at one point his stock was ranked equal to such fellow travelers in the Pictures Generation and Neo-Geo movements as Richard Prince, Cindy Sherman, and Jeff Koons, as well as John Baldessari, David Salle, Ross Bleckner, James Welling, and other community members from the newly founded California Institute of the Arts in the early ’70s.

Dubbed the CalArts Mafia, this tightly knit, ambitious circle was the subject of Goldstein’s last testament: Jack Goldstein and the CalArts Mafia, his spectacular collaborative oral autobiography with Richard Hertz (and 11 other contributors), which manages to be both bleak and exhilarating in its unflinching examination of the neurotic machinations behind art world success and failure.

Failure is the lurking terror throughout the volume — originally published in 2003 and recently reissued by Minneola Press — and some pathological pas de deux with failure led Goldstein to hang himself a few days after finalizing the book’s contents and design. Having burned most of his bridges through an abrasively confrontational interpersonal style and a spiraling appetite for hard drugs, Goldstein found himself forgotten by the mid ’90s, living without electricity in a trailer amid the cholo culture of East L.A. and working as a day laborer to pay for his daily junk.

Tabloid titillation aside, these biographical dimensions lend tremendous gravitas to Goldstein’s work, whose dark humor, theatricality, control-freak precision, and ostentatious disinterest in the physical experience of creative action might seem as affected as Koons’s if they hadn’t been backed up with the most anti-physical control-freak theatricality possible. The obliteration of the figure, the dismantling of the artist’s presence, the poetic obsession with recurrence, duration, and ephemerality — and other motifs that crop up throughout Goldstein’s career — are, ironically, fleshed out and made more substantial by the artist’s final disappearing act..."

Read the rest of "The Man Behind the CalArts Mafia: A Portrait of Jack Goldstein, Pictures Generation Progenitor" here, or buy the September 2012 print version of Modern Painters where it's entitled "Getting Right with Risk"

Images: The Jump 1978 16mm film still; Some Butterflies 1975 16mm film still; Untitled 1979 Oil on Masonite (followed by detail); Untitled 1981 Acrylic on canvas; Untitled 1981 Acrylic on canvas; Untitled 1983 Acrylic on canvas; Untitled 1988 Acrylic on canvas; Totems: Selected Writings 1988–90 one of 100 computer print-outs

Listen to Jack Goldstein's records here, and view his films here. The show is up at OCMA through Sept 9th 2012

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