Joe Goode

Joe Goode on his life and work in Los Angeles

Joe Goode, Milk Bottle Painting 229, 2015, acrylic on board with milk bottle, 42 x 42".

Joe Goode’s deadpan images of milk bottles, suburban homes, open skies, forest fires, water, and smog are included in the collections of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; the Menil Collection in Houston; the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, DC; the Whitney Museum of American Art; and the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Goode has worked in Los Angeles since the 1960s; his latest exhibition, “Old Ideas with New Solutions,” features recent paintings from several series he has been working on over the past half-century. The show opened on his eightieth birthday and is on view at Kohn Gallery in LA through May 13, 2017.

I WAS ALWAYS AWARE THAT MY WORK WASN’T POP. And Walter Hopps knew it too, even though he included me in the Pasadena Art Museum’s “New Painting of Common Objects” in 1962. I had the attitude of, I don’t care where you show me as long as you show me. It’s not very often I choose to revisit a series I’ve done before. On the occasions that I’ve done it, it was because I just felt that I really had a new way of seeing it. A good example would be the “Milk Bottle” paintings I started in the 1960s. First of all, the bottles sat on the floor in front of a canvas to look as though they came out of the canvas. And in this show, there are dark paintings with the bottles attached to them. I’ve always dealt with images that you could see through—usually glass, skies, clouds, or water. The “House” series from the 1960s was when I was just formulating this idea of being able to look through things. When you see a house or go by one of these very normal suburban homes, you instinctively know what’s inside it because you’ve been in a thousand of them. And that’s what really triggered this idea I had—even though you couldn’t see through something, on some level you knew what was inside.

One of the great things about Los Angeles is that it’s so open and it’s always been that way. I think that’s because of the geography, where everything’s spread out. Anybody could do anything here and it’s one of the very few cities where a person can do something that would normally offend you but you can just pick up and move. You don’t have to live with it. There’s a freedom here that’s been here since I first came, at least, and I don’t think it’s changed. People who don’t live here—they think of a large town, and it’s a large small town, is what it is. The people that came out here and gained recognition in the 1960s, one of the things that I think we all had in common—which was different from places like New York or Europe—was that each of us was working with vastly different imagery compared with artists in other places. I think that really singled this area out, and, in a way, it could have really inhibited it as well, but it didn’t, because of the right people like Philip Leider and John Coplans. Leider was from Northern California and John Coplans was from London, and so for those guys to come here, along with Walter Hopps and others, they were the ones that really put this place on the map. It wasn’t the artists, you know, because we were already working here and we were just the cards that they had to deal with. But they were the guys that did it. There’re plenty of places in the world with good artists that don’t have this happening. I think it was partially luck and partially circumstances, but if those things hadn’t merged together, I’m not saying people here wouldn’t have been recognized, because I think they would, but it would have been in an entirely different way.