Critics’ Picks

Jack Goldstein, Untitled, 1999, vinyl, wood, metal, lacquer, 23 1/2 x 6 3/4".

Jack Goldstein, Untitled, 1999, vinyl, wood, metal, lacquer, 23 1/2 x 6 3/4".

Berlin

Jack Goldstein

Galerie Daniel Buchholz
Fasanenstraße 30
May 1–June 13, 2009

Jack Goldstein’s second posthumous exhibition at this gallery spans thirty years of production and about as many conceptual touchstones, from his glyphic word totems to his objectified sound works (vinyl records in vitrines) to the dislocated imagery of spectacle that placed him among the bright stars of the Pictures Generation. Goldstein’s star faded faster than the rest, before flaring up in the several years prior to his death in 2003; however, as this show demonstrates, his preoccupations carried through the decades.

In “Untitled,” a suite of sculptures from 1999, each work comprises a copy of an LP titled The Quivering Earth, framed on a wall-hung lazy Susan of sorts and surrounded by a corolla of small, rectangular metal fragments. The scrap-yard aesthetic, in all appearances a parody of the most inventive in trailer-park decor, contrasts with the impeccable surfaces of his paintings. Airbrushed scenes of explosions and artillery fire, these canvases—which Goldstein himself derided as “salon paintings”—seem affirmed by some contemporary painters who have eagerly taken up Goldstein’s strategy of self-consciously “selling out” in the name of gibbeting spectacular culture. That this attitude is now commonplace doesn’t mean that history was wrong in judging Goldstein’s paintings as it did (largely, by dismissing them). In any case, the paintings don’t hold a candle to Goldstein’s films from the 1970s and ’80s, a rare collection of which is screened in the exhibition on 16 mm. Goldstein began the final film on the reel, Under Water Sea Fantasy, in 1983 and finished it shortly before his death. Compiled from found archival material, the Fantasy begins with a vermilion volcanic eruption before descending into a primordial undersea universe rendered in acid blue. If the paintings pictorially flatten the blunt machinery of violence, the film flattens the great deep into a sequence of painterly apparitions—a maneuver that shows Goldstein at his best, having shaken off his cynical embrace of the salon painting for the more mesmerizing qualities of a time-based medium.