By MAT GLEASON May, 2020
Staring at a ceiling fan thinking of the last art show I ever saw. Three months since I saw art on a wall and talked to the person who made it. A ritual carried out hundreds of times a year for over twenty years and then just a fog as to when it all ended and a war on truth as to why and the ceiling fan is off, stiff, the only thing that isn't fluid as the fog thickens, the boat goes up river, I'm on a mission to recall what the last art show was…
The phone is the boat, the connection to the past, I slide upstream, back in time, way up the river. Were we even alive before phones? Before security? Dragging up thru the shots of masks and empty streets and screenshotted memes and finally we see bright brilliant colors, people socializing face to face, naked noses and mouths, drinks and hugging and paintings on a wall, in a room, lit and adored.
Nikolas Soren Goodich had a breakout solo show of his Double Inverted Portraits in a room at the Startup Art Fair in Los Angeles in February. It was the last art show. Just getting to the deep west side to see a hipster hotel hold one last fling before the plague descended was an accomplishment and the crush of the crowd in the hallways walking from exhibit to exhibit is something we may never feel again.
Goodich was the thing of legend in Los Angeles long before this. When he showed in my Chinatown basement in 2013, one of his studio neighbors quipped “I had to come see his art, I only knew him as the guy who took a lotta drugs.” He had shown up at the gallery a few months before with an extra large pizza box. A fair bribe I thought as my mouth watered. He opened it to spill out a hundred or more small expressionistic paintings and drawings on paper. A mess that he spent almost a half hour cleaning up, wrinkling the paper and pulling up his much too loose pants with the hand with which he was trying to hold up the pizzaless box. But those drawings made my mouth water as much as a pie…
It had been years though since that chaos in the basement, since those mad drawings of unleashed figurative angst. He had cleaned up and gone to grad school, leaving L.A. behind as the journey toward clarity and composition unfolded. He landed a half-decade later in the Bay Area. The passing of his father, a renowned cinematographer, had made the newborn adult in him all the more resolute toward this art and its ritual practice.
The StartUp fair, assumed to be one of 2020's opening moments to a year ahead now stands as one of the few things that actually happened in a year that has been stolen from us. Unless we (Los Angeles) simply, collectively dreamed of being in a room at a hotel where Goodich had commandeered all available viewing space for his mad painterly symmetricals. We are face to face with his Inverted Double Portrait series. The obsession with the mirror image is the Rorschach proposition for the audience, foisted on the viewer by an impossibly well-read man whose mind today is still busy being born. There are new ideas here, parallels to whatever conflicts and pressure create diamonds out of coal. These face-offs, painted as if by a dancer with a majestic brush-stroking hand, take place in a sideways mirror. The viewer, us, well we think we are immune to their charms, yet the seduction of brash color combinations pulls in our eye. Then Goodich’s rigorous formal composition (simplified in elements but acrylic paint on steroids with deliverance) holds everyone's attention; seduction becomes revelation.
This journey back to the last art exhibit was conceived of in hindsight but lived forward. Just like the man's art, the result of all his layered wrenching passion is not a journey home but a memory of what home must be. The faces looking at each other are all of us suspending time by the mere act of consideration. Thought itself is an act and painting “thought” is, as Goodich asserts with muscular certainty, not going to be solely assigned the province of dry conceptual art and obtuse social practice.
Painting offers the permanence that thoughts and ideas can hold in their imagination. Thought dies, or at least never thrives much beyond articulation. Pictorial space usually demands compromise but Goodich turns this space into the bullring of fraught contemplation, he himself the matador and the toro. These painted surfaces are the taunting muleta holding a cape and hiding a sword, a cape that battles the self to seize thought as crystalline truth and stab it into eternity with the ancient amber of colored polyurethane.
Connection. We all strive to make connections. I took the boat up the river of the mind to connect to this art. There was a crowd and laughter and sales and celebration and in the moment (and in the moments after looking at the documentation of the moment) there was a point where consciousness expanded, where Goodich showed us the possibilities of the self versus the self, the self complementing the self and the self conquering the self. He had gone up his own dark psychic river to get to the place where he could show us his battle scars.
The last art show blew my mind out and the splatter of it as I wait out its reassembly lingers, echoes, piecing it back together with a cone of energy toward hope as Goodich painted/foresaw, like the cones we viewed deeply on those pictures as people squeezed in front of us to talk to the master, to take pictures with him, to be in the presence of the energy these pictures gave off, casting quick shadows via the hastily-installed clip-on lights as they maneuvered in a hotel designed for rest and fucking not a hundred artsy tourists per hour devouring raw consciousness options pouring out of these paintings.
Now it's the end of May and we are all down the river, our boats beached and our consciousness reduced to the rubble of debates carried by an idiot breeze of viral load speculation in long masked supermarket lines. Will we ever reach that crest of economy and humanity that spawned the Startup Fair and a Los Angeles art scene that nurtured thousands of expressions? Are we sliding down the hillside after the river shot us through this terrifying waterfall into nothingness? Those of us who have gazed upon the psychic wisdom of a Nikolas Soren Goodich painting can always hope the journey upstream will soon not be so treacherous. WM
Mat Gleason founded Coagula Art Journal in 1992. He is a writer living in Southern California.view all articles from this author