Jack Goldstein, MAMCO Geneva, 2017. Photo: Annika Wetter–MAMCO Geneva
“What can we make of an artist like Jack Goldstein who after performances, films, and painting that stressed -spectacular effects, turns to “abstract” paintings—or, more precisely, painting of abstracted images or event…?” With this interrogation Hal Foster opened “Signs Taken for Wonders,” an important essay published in 1986 that aimed to describe and evaluate practices by artists related to “appropriationism.” Casting a critical eye on this “new painting,” Foster remarks on its ability to instrumentalize styles inherited from the avant-gardes, its particular form of historical bad faith, and its more than ambiguous relationship with the market—a set of attributes it could share with neo-expressionism, the dominant trend of the time.
This text is symptomatic of Jack Goldstein’s critical reception during the 1980s (born 1945 in Montreal, died in 2003 in Los Angeles, where he established in the 1990s having left New York). Indeed, his work played a pivotal role for many commentators reflecting on the rise of “appropriation” in the “Pictures Generation” and later of “Simulationism” and “Neo-Geo.” First associated with post-Minimal sculpture, then linked to the development of performance in California (where he studied), to finally be affiliated with the critical return of a painting which foregrounded its own objecthood, Goldstein’s protean figure was involved in most of the neo-avant-gardes of the 1970s and 1980s. His work seems to enable an entire generation of politically engaged critics, such as Douglas Crimp, Craig Owens, and Hal Foster, to make global prognostics on the fate of postmodernity.
Goldstein’s practice was presented here by a selection of paintings ranging from the “war spectacles” period (1980–1983), and the “nature spectacles” one (1983–1986), to the “technology spectacles” (1986–1990), and also included, in another room, a selection of his most well-known 16mm films (1972–1976).