TETE-A-TETE WITH GARY GOLDSTEIN | by Gary Goldstein and Yona Fischer  

The spirit of our times is surely not focused on the attractive; the task of art remains the immanent sublime, to allude to what cannot be displayed and is not constructive, but which is part of the infinite transformations of “realities”. We know that the process is not without anguish. But painters are not called on to answer the question: how can we escape anguish? For them, the question is: what is painting?

Jean-Francois Lyotard, L'Inhumain, Ed. Galilee, 1988


G.G. My work is a kind of self-commemoration. It is completely made of associations - visual, verbal - which for other people may not have any meaning.

Y.F. And which are so often found in the iconography of cartoon hero-fetishes as well as in symbols of war, death, sex, survival…

G.G. There is something in me which tries not to forget, there is fear of forgetting. I owe it to myself to commemorate in every possible way the impact that objects, books, a sheet of paper have on me. My parents didn't tell me anything about their past, what they went through. They talked about it to each other. For me it has remained like a black hole, so I have built myself an imaginary family history, through books on the Holocaust for example.

Y.F. It's not a reconstruction, is it?

G.G. No, I love books, texts, the photographs of past generations, because for someone who grew up in an empty house, they represent continuity. Objects are amulets for me.

Y.F. You react to them…

G.G. Very spontaneously. I shiver as if it were a sexual reaction.

Y.F. There are images, associations and materials.

G.G. I cannot work with shiny, clean, new materials. Only with perishable ones. No iron or gold or stone. Why do I want what is ephemeral? It is a kind of relationship, my relationship, to existence. My work is achieved through touch; I try to reach, I look for omens.

Y.F. You erase, you cover up, you substitute one image or text for another.

G.G. In fact, they are collages. For me, a collage is above all the juxtaposition of one place, one reality, with another place and another reality. Thought it might be the meeting of two distinct entities.

Y.F. One from which you are absent?

G.G. If you look carefully at the images, you'll find that there is a real passivity reflected even in my portraits. Things happen in the background. People are silhouettes. I think I'm close to things, but I avoid being part of them. I am in Jerusalem, a city where the women wear a star of David or a cross around their necks, where graffiti layer the walls of churches, violent, aggressive, indicating our identities.

Y.F. Could you comment about the use of ready-mades in your work?

G.G. The objects are there, all kinds of found objects. On one side are books and things jumbled together; on the other side, images jumbled together too. Two jumbles that I use, that I recycle. It is something rooted deep within me, in my habits, in those of my family, in a tradition of constant re-beginning. Just as it is in the Bible, I imagine?

This text was first published in “Gary Goldstein livres apporpries / images alteres / objets detournes”, Passage de Retz, Paris, 1997