For “Pacific Standard Time,” the Getty-organized, season-long initiative, museums throughout Southern California largely staged thematic overviews. Meanwhile, dozens of galleries have fleshed out the storyline with shows focusing on individual artists seminal to the period, often highlighting lesser-known aspects of their work. This show of Joe Goode’s “Nighttime” (or “Black”) series from 1977–78 was among the stellar examples. The charcoal powder drawings and oil paintings on both paper and canvas embody the most vigorous characteristics of Goode’s 50-year oeuvre, and they hadn’t been shown in two decades.
To make the works, most approximately 6 by 5 feet, Goode brushed the canvases edge to edge with a warm, reddish black or a colder, inkier one, the surfaces variably matte or glossy, sometimes a mix of both. On paper, at a slightly smaller scale, he painted similar monochrome fields (blacks and slate grays) but with a bit more gestural verve. The real concentration of energy came after he established the dark grounds, when he slashed and clawed at them, piercing and puncturing the surfaces. One of the works on paper bears more than a dozen entry wounds, small holes edged in raw, exposed fiber. The canvases are crossed with swift slices that leave gaping apertures to the wall behind. Lucio Fontana naturally comes to mind, but Goode’s intrusions upon the sanctity of a picture plane feel more organic, less restrained. The effect is powerful and elemental, an exercise of opposing forces-creation and destruction, affirmation and negation.
The charcoal powder drawings are smaller, their gray fields softer and more delicate, but Goode subjects them to the same agitated strokes, scoring the paper and often breaking the surfaces, neatly or in prolonged, stuttering gashes. Given Goode’s long-standing attention to the subject of skies, it’s not a stretch to read the lines interrupting these expanses as contrails, but there are fewer contextual clues anchoring this series to the natural landscape than in much of his other work. The “Black” drawings and paintings followed a series (called “Torn Sky” or “Torn Cloud”) in which one painted canvas was cut open to expose sections of another beneath it. Goode’s performative violations of the surface peaked in intensity just after the black works, with the shotgun-blasted canvases of the “Environmental Impact” series of 1980–81.
Since then, Goode has continued to explore the notion of vandalized planes and compromised atmospheres but through more painterly means and less literal physicality. The “Black” series represents a vital moment in his work, when his foundational influences, Ab Ex painting’s thrashing action, Light and Space art’s reductive approach to perceptual inquiry—the visceral and the minimal-coalesced into something tough, immediate and enduringly fresh.
Photo: Joe Goode: Black Drawing 6, 1977, oil on paper, 50 by 38 inches; at Michael Kohn.