Whitehot Magazine

New York Love Affair: Timothy Goodman at Richard Taittinger

Courtesy of Richard Taittinger. 

By DAVID JAGER September 8,  2023

If there is a reigning feeling in Timothy Goodman’s current show at Richard Taittinger, it’s nostalgia. But it’s a bittersweet, sticky brand of summer nostalgia harkening back to a more analog time: a golden era of road trips, mix tapes, and stoned casual hangouts on rooftops, a time of face-to-face encounters that predate our current instagrammable moment. With his usual graffiti and Haring inspired text paintings, Goodman is painting a muggy, hazy picture of semi fictional summer romances in NY and abroad, along with all the moments that go with it. 

Goodman says as much in his artist statement: “every summer I fall in love with roller coasters, fire hydrants, and driving around listening to 90s hip hop with the windows down. I fall in love with tattoo sleeves, the NBA Finals, and old reruns of MTV.” Goodman wants to express his love for all these things and wants us to fall in love along with him. 

It helps that Goodman knows his way around a slogan. As a designer, brander, artist and author, he is an expert at using graphically placed groups of words to capture a feeling. This adeptness is clearly at play here. Feel good, carefully placed buzzwords, and the occasional cartoonish icon harkens back to the carefree era of early Graffiti, both visually and sensually. The judicious use of font- from seventies grindhouse poster to 90’s lo fi graffiti- gives everything a slick retro feel, as if the era of VHS tapes and eight-tracks in hardtops were about to make a comeback. It feels like stumbling into 90’s warehouse party on a mid-summer NY night, awash with wonder, hormones and MDMA. 

 Courtesy of Richard Taittinger. 

In the ultra-saturated media onslaught that is contemporary life, it’s a given that we cast a jaundiced eye at feel good nostalgia. Yet this show wins me over because its main subject- NYC and summer romance- has its self-boosting swagger pre-baked into it. Someone in the city is perpetually selling us something, after all, from subway hustlers to side-walk performers to massive multi-level media campaigns. Goodman treads the fine line between slick presentation and earnest, starry eyed vulnerability, and it tracks. In many ways, the whole show is just a love letter to the city and summer in its sweaty, jumbled glory. He’s just happily shouting it from the rooftops.

“I’m in love with NYC and I don’t care who know it. I’m in love with NY like a rock band that stays together after they’ve made it” Says one painting, simply.

Goodman is careful to wink at his audience, always hinting at the dark complexities that underscore even the sunniest of contemporary success stories. In fact, he suggests that disappointment is the musky base note that anchors the wild openness and freedom that summer romance and the big city offers. Yes, New York and Paris are great, and summer romance is wonderful, but summer always ends. Is inevitable heartbreak worth the price of admission? Goodman seems to think it is. 

 Courtesy of Richard Taittinger. 

“FIND YOUR FEELINGS AND LET THEM KILL YOU” he suggests in another painting that addresses just that. This small gem is nestled in a close a Keith Haring style heart about to be tractor beamed into a UFO. “Go along for the ride” is what he seems to be saying. Other paintings speak to the process of healing, of putting oneself back together in the aftermath, or even letting the broken pieces of ourselves lie fallow and grow into something new. 

Though it is a warm bath of generalized nostalgia and feeling overall, fragments of an actual narrative do appear in many paintings. There are snapshots of a friendship between a man and a woman that could have been something more, underscored by longing. “Just dump the motherfucker” begs the male friend, a sentiment that expresses itself across several canvases. Along with this note of platonic longing is the desire to take off, escape, drive away on a long summer road trip: “Let’s drive like forever in the middle of an American summer” one painting pleads. The all-American summer road trip takes on an elegiac quality, a harbinger of timeless and boundless freedom and possibility. It’s ‘On the Road’ in the 21st century.

There are also many worked mazes of words on corollary themes, labyrinths of associations that celebrate places and states. ‘Paris Toujours’ celebrates the City of Lights with a playful accumulation of place names crowded together in a mnemonic topography, other dense word canvases take on the history of with the names of old masters, as if the legacy of painting could be summarized in a cheeky series of infographics. 

Especially impressive is the dense mural that dominates the front half of the space with bold graphic energy. Linked together with a series of thick lines and dots and dashes, we see more nostalgic elements that run through the show like a refrain- VHS, ATM, CASH, DVD, FREE, VINTAGE, OPEN, LATE, DRIVING- all words that sparkle with a certain anarchic and retro cachet. “Do you remember when people just drove around without a particular destination in mind, and without Google maps?” the entire wall seems to ask. 

Overall, the show plays like a perfect summer anthem, a mixtape that blasts party tracks for the whole block to groove to. Sure, we know the tunes, and we know their commercial contours well enough. Even so, we love to party, and we love to fall in love, and we don’t ever want the song to end. WM

David Jager

David Jager is an arts and culture writer based in New York City. He contributed to Toronto's NOW magazine for over a decade, and continues to write for numerous other publications. He has also worked as a curator. David received his PhD in philosophy from the University of Toronto in 2021. He also writes screenplays and rock musicals. 

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