New exhibitions in the MMK fall into two main categories: either they offer a new angle on one of the most important German collections of contemporary art by featuring changing presentations structured around a focal topic or they provide a thoroughly researched overview of selected artists from the Collection. The comprehensive Jack Goldstein retrospective is the first in this latter series of artist presentations.
Jack Goldstein, who was born 1945 in Montreal, Canada, and died 2003 in San Bernadino, California, is one of the most important "artists'" artists of the last 30 years. Though he enjoys international appreciation amongst fellow artists and art experts, his oeuvre remains largely unknown to a broader public. Following his training at the Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles (1966-69) and later at the newly founded California Institute of the Arts in Valencia in John Baldessari's famous "post-studio art" class he worked both in Los Angeles and New York.
The exhibition "Pictures" curated by art critic and theorist Douglas Crimp in 1977 in the "Artists Space" in New York spotlighted Troy Brauntuch, Sherrie Levine, Robert Longo, Philip Smith and Jack Goldstein as a new generation of artists. Their work both set itself off from Minimalism and Pop Art while at the same time critically advancing both styles. In an interview Goldstein once remarked: "I am interested in the gap between Minimalism and Pop Art: in the object character and autonomy of Minimalism and the subject matter of our culture that is to be encountered in Pop Art." For his critical exploration of the images of the Western culture conveyed by the media he drew on techniques and images from the culture industry and advertising. In the 1980s Goldstein was considered one of the most promising artists of the Post-Pop Art movement alongside Richard Prince, Sherrie Levine, Robert Longo and David Salle.
His extraordinary oeuvre stands out for its diversity and individuality: It embraces sculpture, performance, film, recording, painting, visually-presented aphorisms and texts.
While studying under Baldessari Goldstein initially worked on minimalist sculptures, but soon turned his attention to performance and film. As the public was excluded from attending his earliest performances they are only documented by descriptions of them and a handful of photographs. The first films, dating from the years 1971-73, depict performative situations and serve to advance the ideas behind his first works. All Goldstein's films are shot on 16mm material and their composition is inspired more by models from the theater than from the video esthetic that was gradually evolving at that time. Up until 1983 Jack Goldstein produced 34 films, and today they number his most famous works. The films, some of which are very brief (with the shortest lasting a mere 20 seconds) rely on the tools and technology of the commercial film industry. The film topics range from performative stagings via motifs culled from the US movie industry through to short sequences that focus on a single object or movement. He edited the last ten films completed during his lifetime to form a single sequence. They represent the peak of his achievements in film and simultaneously mark the starting point for the new series of LP recordings. The records are not only sound recordings but also objects, which are designed as "images" and are also presented as such. The first work entitled A Suite of Nine 7-inch Records and made in 1976 (it is part of the MMK Collection) is a series of color records for which he used sound material from commercial archives. Other aural works refer to popular film genres such as disaster movies and sci-fi or adventure films as churned out by Hollywood's movie industry.
The most comprehensive but least known part in Goldstein's oeuvre are his paintings. Like the films and records, the paintings - and for the most part they have large formats - were executed by trained specialists in line with instructions that Goldstein provided. The motifs are inspired by reproductions of war pictures, storms, natural disasters, astronomical photographs and so on. They all revolve around the idea of the spectacular, which also plays a key role in the world of the media. For documenta 7 Goldstein wrote an aphoristic essay for the catalog, which begins with the assertion that "media is sensational". This sentiment runs like a red thread through his work and is specifically a leitmotif of his paintings. He also emphasizes how media technology can substitute for our own experience. He writes: "Technology does everything for us so that we no longer have to function in terms of experience. We function in terms of esthetics." It follows that only by means of the instruments of art can we counter the closed cosmos of a world recorded by the media. Or to cite Jack Goldstein himself: "Art should be a trailer for the future". In the final years of his life Goldstein devoted himself increasingly to such essays, which will also feature in the MMK show.
The exhibition in the MMK is the first comprehensive museum exhibition in Germany since 198?. Goldstein, whose films and paintings were shown at documenta 7 (1982) and 8 (1987) respectively, had large solo exhibitions in America and Europe, more recently 2002 in Le Magasin, Centre National d'Art Contemporain, Grenoble.
The MMK exhibition will be accompanied by an extensive catalog with an interview Chris Dercon conducted with Jack Goldstein in 1986 and essays by Klaus Görner, Chrissie Iles and Shepherd Steiner.