Sam Goodman and Boris Lurie are true Social Realists. Deeply involved with political and social issues, they have decided to work as citizen-artists to become Responsible, to move their studiostheir art, their lives, their referencesinto the ideological arena. They turn the esthetic inside-out to discover its ethical viscera, ligaments, heart, dung.
Lurie with his grimed up Pin-up nudes (the erotics of the underprivileged), Goodman tinkering with mashed celluloid babies, spell out a choking rhetoric that is concerned with where we are going.
Like all artists they use the tools of art, but unlike the traditionally Left Social-Realists, they do not sneak Cold-War messages into smooth aspics of style of Style. Where a Guttuso or a Siqueiros or a Lorjou or a Refregier paint with accepted academic table-manners in order to make respectable some ideological anecdote, Goodman and Lurie have seized upon the latest idioms of New York School Action Painting. But where Rauschenberg, Kaprow or Oldenburg use the lace of garbage in formal, poetic ways, these two painters reject all transpositions and metamorphoses. They comment on the disgrace of society with the refugee material of society itselffugitive materials for fugitives from our great disordersour peripheral obscenities, our garbage, our repulsive factory-made waste-matter.
In a poor country, you cannot find chicken bone on the streets. Goodman and Lurie have decreed whole scatological Versailles from the 'built-in-obsolescences’ of American 'affluent society’ (n.b., these moralists could scavenge as profitably in London, Paris, Milan, Munich, Leningrad).
All modern art is Protest, in one way or another. Usually it is the protest of silence, negation, Satans crynon serviam. Sometimes it is directly implied in difficulties of image or in savagery of gesture.
Goodman and Lurie do not imply; they protest directly. They brake up the relatively polite conversations in the parlor car by making a blind jump at the EMERGENCY STOP cord. With their art, with the vast human accumulations of art-history and esthetic thought, they have found ways to shoutto blurt the visual truth.
The irony of art, of course, always intervenes. If Goodman and Lurie were not fine painters, their blurts would be gibbers. And because they are artists they have bumped into beauty even where they are most horrified. Art always sneaks back to the studioeven when the artist has gotten rid of its walls and doors and has moved out into the street. Here Venus arises from a sea of shit.
In this ultimate twist of fatality (no wonder they named their exhibition in New York 'Doom') lies their ultimate metaphor. The shriek of doom also is a gay, wild testimonial to the Resurrection.
Thomas B. Hess: Art critic, formerly editor of Art News, presently writing for New York Magazine; chief promoter-popularizer of New York Abstract Expressionist movement.