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Mario de Micheli:
An American Rebellion
Lurie and Goodman in Milan


The intellectual groups that are taking a position of revolt against established society are getting to be more numerous from day to day. Boris Lurie and Sam Goodman showing at present at the Schwarz Gallery offer us proof that an identical process takes place in the figurative arts. We did encounter in work of American artists showing here some symptoms of rebellion and opposition - but here the case is quite different. Here revolt becomes the centre of the poetry, the principal and exclusive reason behind the inspiration. Much of the Goodman-Lurie rebellious affirmation is not new to art history: but their move is being made today and in a totally different social condition which bears no resemblance to that of the Twenties.

Their catastrophic atmosphere heavily loaded with Messianic sentiment is not just an attitude, it is a very definite result of very definite actual real conditions. Though the introduction to this show written by the critic Thomas B. Hess would have us think that these artists represent a vague kind of anarchical attitude, the meaning I perceive from their work gives proof of the contrary: a painting like "Lumumba is Dead" leaves no doubt in mind. A collage, in the centre a picture of Lumumba covered by a swastika, cut-outs of newsprint proclaiming "Adieu Amérique!", all around it the false paradise of an unconscious unaware unconcerned society trying to forget itself and all problems in the exasperation of sex; a vulgar paradise among which emerge here and there the words "December ... Is dead ... Lumumba..."

Other paintings are composed in similar manner and still others omitted in this exhibition - antiracist paintings, paintings in favor of Cuba, pictures in which the word "Liberty" is incessently repeated and repeated. We cannot believe on the basis of these documents that the revolt of Lurie and Goodman is but of a vague, undefined nature. Aesthetically these artists have no particular preferences, they are neither abstract nor non-objective, nor merely representational but rather all of these together; and they wish to use all past and present aesthetic innovations without any formalistic stylistic discrimination.

The result is a kind of multiple concentration of avant-gardism with particular emphasis on dadaism and surrealism. Goodman is in full command of his plastic forms: discarded objects cast away, rejected objects that symbolize the deterioration of a society, its very end on the garbage heap. Not aesthetic objects, but brutal materials that despite their compositional organization must preserve their brutality and must not transform themselves into any other image. Lurie has a more pictorial sensibility expressed with clarity, his position is less apocalyptic than Goodman's. These works are "states of the soul"—protests, signals of emergency, and should be judged exclusively as such. They are works that from the inside of the New York Abstract Expressionist School attempt a breakthrough, a way out, an exit; they represent a focal point of restlessness that points towards a possibility of a new solution. It is difficult to guess where such protest will end up, to what formal conclusions Lurie and Goodman will arrive after this outspoken pouring-out phase of negation.

Perhaps the problem will present itself to them in the same manner as it did to members of the first European avant-garde: to give to the revolt more complex and sure reasons, to sustain this revolt borne of the first elementary gesture of revulsion with a continuous definite precise consciousness. Maybe then once Lurie and Goodman reach this point, aesthetic and figurative possibilities might arise in a new way, and they will then be able to perceive the contrast between their truth as proclaimed and the variety of figurative terms they now consciously make use of.

Source: Lurie, Boris; Krim, Seymour: NO!art, Cologne 1988

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Mario De Micheli (Genova, 1 aprile 1914 - Milano, 17 agosto 2004) was an Italian writer and art critic. Supporter of the avant-garde in the figurative arts, in 1938 he moved to Milan where he took part in the group of Current, clearly inspired by anti-fascism. He founded several art magazines and organized numerous national and international exhibitions. For years and years he was art critic of the newspaper L'Unità. His is the merit of having made known in Italy important Hungarian and Romanian poets. He died in Milan and is buried in Trezzo d'Adda, town of origin of his mother. more

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