Joe Goode: Select Works | 1970s – 2000s on display at The Honarkar Foundation


Photos by Jeff Rovner

Joe Goode has earned his place in the American art canon. Over his near 65-year career, his works have hung in the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and dozens of other prestigious institutions. He’s shown in galleries from New York to Tokyo, from London to Los Angeles. Peter Blake, owner of Laguna’s Peter Blake Gallery, has worked with Goode for more than 30 years. Now through July 20, a survey of Joe Goode’s works from the 1970s – 2000s is on display at the Honarkar Foundation.

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Joe Goode poses on his staircase at the artist reception on Saturday, June 15 at the Honarkar Foundation

Goode came to California in 1959 as a 22-year-old young man. He’d grown up in Oklahoma City with two other famed artists – Ed Ruscha and Jerry McMillan. The three men found their way to Los Angeles to discover the West Coast art scene, attending Chouinard Art Institute and remaining lifelong friends. Goode’s first solo exhibition took place in 1962 at L.A.’s Dilexi Gallery. Over the decades, he’s had dozens of solo and group shows, including several in town.

Since his career began in the early 1960s, Goode has never stopped exploring new ways of grappling with the subjects that have always haunted him. Memories of a tumultuous boyhood spent in Oklahoma in the aftermath of the Dust Bowl and Great Depression. A fascination with nature in all its beautiful and destructive forms. A desire to recreate the experience of seeing through things – windows, milk bottles, clouds, fire and tornadoes.

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“Beacon (Night & Day),” 2003, oil on canvas

“I don’t feel like my work changes,” Goode once said. “In a way, I’ve been making the same painting for 50 years. At the same time, if I can’t find a new way of seeing something, then I’m not interested in it.”

One of the more thrilling aspects of this survey is exactly this – Goode’s work defies classification. Some have described him as a pop artist, others as an abstract expressionist. Still others align his paintings with California light and space artists like James Turrell and Robert Irwin. He’s worked with oils and acrylics, but also ceramics, and wood and photo collages. He’s built staircases to nowhere and small sculptures of Japanese homes. But every invention and reinvention contains Goode’s unmistakable eye.

“He doesn’t have a formula,” said Blake. “I represent artists who have painted the same painting for 50 years. In Joe’s case, his work is constantly different. He’s pushing the boundaries of materials.”

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From ceramic sculptures to oil paintings, wooden staircases to photo collage, Goode works across time and mediums

Blake, who assisted Curator Genevieve Williams in assembling the show, sees something unique in the way Goode blurs the boundary between representation and abstraction. “He’s often exploring nature, but he’s doing it in a way that lets you fill in the missing pieces. It’s not hyperrealism.”

That exploration of nature’s duality is present in many of Goode’s paintings. It’s either wreaking havoc with tornadoes, forest fires and holes in our ozone or it’s portrayed with calm serenity in oceanscapes, clouds and waterfalls. And, unlike other artists who position the viewer at a distance, Goode places the viewer inside the action to create an experiential and immersive experience.

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“Waterfall Drawing 21,” 1990, oil pastel on paper

“He puts you underneath the tree so you’re looking up, seeing the light coming through the branches. He puts you inside the ocean. If he’s painting the ozone layer, you’re not looking out onto the sky. You’re inside the atmosphere. His work has all these very unique perspectives,” Blake said.

Blake isn’t alone in this observation. “Goode alters and subdues the notion of painting as theater to include the viewer as a participatory member of the cast,” art critic Michael Duncan once wrote of Goode’s work.

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“Larissa (Moon Painting 44),” 1998, oil on board

In May 2005, two decades after Goode began his Forest Fire series and a year into a new series known as Burned Out, a fire erupted in his studio, destroying more than 100 valuable works of art, including paintings by Ed Ruscha, Kenneth Price, Larry Bell and Ed Moses. But the bulk of the loss was Goode’s own work, which spanned 40 years. Officials claimed the fire was caused by a spontaneous combustion of oily rags, ending Goode’s work with oil. He soon switched to acrylics.

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“Forest Fire Painting 82,” 1984, oil on canvas

Goode began his milk bottle series in the 1960s. It was the first of many major series in his career inspired, in part, when he returned to his Highland Park home one morning after an all-night shift. He saw the empty milk bottles sitting on his steps, waiting to be picked up by the milkman. “They occupied the space in a way that was defined and ambiguous at the same time,” Goode once said. “I started thinking about a bottle coming out of a painting and was intrigued by the idea of activating the space in front of a painting by placing a milk bottle there.”

Art critic John Coplans once called Goode’s milk bottles “the loneliest paintings in the world,” a review he originally disapproved. “Because I was insecure then, and barely making it financially, I didn’t like it, but it was the most influential piece ever written about my work,” Goode once said. “We all read art criticism during the 1960s and 1970s, and felt that Artforum was important, but I hardly ever read art criticism now.”

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“Milk Bottle Painting 153,” 2014, acrylic on archival foam board

Goode seems to have remained disinterested in the art world’s need to psychoanalyze and classify artists. “One year we were having a solo show and there was a big art critic that kept asking Joe about these cloud paintings,” Blake recalled. “He was visibly uncomfortable talking about them. Most artists would have come up with some politically correct and environmentally sensitive explanation that the art world wanted to hear. Joe looks at her and says, ‘Jesus, I had colon cancer. I was sitting in a f***ing hospital, staring up at the clouds through the window all day. That’s what inspired me.’”

That’s Goode in a nutshell, Blake said. Talented, salty, unapologetic and more interested in making art than talking about it.

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“Untitled (Clouds),” 1970, photo collage

“One beauty of this show is that it takes you through decades of work. A lot of artists, like musicians, have these moments where they shine and could be easily defined,” Blake said. “But in Joe’s case, you can see throughout the decades that it’s consistently great. He’s not doing the same thing over and over again.”

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(L-R) James Hayward, Peter Blake, Joe Goode and Mo Honarkar.

The show’s opening reception was well attended by fellow artists including Ed Ruscha, James Hayward, Eric Johnson, Andy Moses, Kelly Berg, Stephanie Bachiero, Jorg Dubin and Jimi Gleason, as well as art critic Peter Frank and gallerist Peter Blake.

The show runs through Saturday, July 20. The Honarkar Foundation is located at 298 Broadway St., Laguna Beach. The gallery is open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Enter along the left-hand side of the building in the alley.

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