Offramp Gallery = 1702 Lincoln Avenue = Pasadena, CA 91103 = 626.298.6931
Aron Goldberg: A Life in Self Portraits
September 13 - October 25, 2009
Opening Reception: Sunday, September 13, 2-5pm
UCLA, BA, art, 1959
UCLA, MFA, photography, 1977
2009 Aron Goldberg: A Life in Self Portraits, Offramp Gallery, Pasadena, CA
1978 Los Angeles Photographic Center
1966 Ceejee Galleries, Los Angeles
Selected Group Exhibitions
1999 "Painting from Observation," Rio Hondo College, 2-person show
1990 "Portraits," Mt. St. Mary's College
1985 "Celebrating Two Decades in Photography," Wight Gallery, UCLA, (catalog)
1984 "Ceeje Revisited," Municipal Art Gallery, Los Angeles, (catalog)
1983 "Six Artists," Double Rocking G Gallery, Los Angeles
1982 "Erotic Show," CameraVision Gallery, Los Angeles
1980 Day of the Dead Photo Show, Galeria Otra Vez, Los Angeles
"Mask as Object and Image," S.P.A.R.C., Venice, CA
"Male Nude," CameraVision Gallery, Los Angeles
1964 Vincent Price Collection, Sears Roebuck, Inc.
Criticism & Reviews
1984 "Ceeje Revisited," Los Angeles Times, April 29
1980 Review, "Male Nude" show at CameraVision, Artweek, March 15
1975 Review, E.L. Carrillo show, Los Angeles Times, April 7
1966 Review, Los Angeles Times, November 25
Review, Los Angeles Herald Examiner, November 10
1964 "Circle of Styles in Los Angeles," Art in America, John Coplans
1979 "Edmund Teske: Images from Within," introduction to exhibition catalog, Friends of Photography, Carmel, CA
1976 "James Doolin," introduction to exhibition catalog, Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery
1975 Occasional piece for Artweek
"Eduardo Carrillo," introduction to exhibition catalog, California State University, LA
1966-67 Occasional art criticism, Los Angeles Free Press
Working with students of all ages, taught photography, oil painting, watercolor, figure painting, landscape painting, basic drawing, figure drawing, color drawing, art history, printmaking, stagecraft and lighting, and children's art at varied institutions, including:
Offramp Gallery is pleased to present a very special exhibition, Aron Goldberg: A Life in Self Portraits from September 13 – October 25, 2009, with an opening reception for the artist on Sunday, September 13, 2-5pm.
Aron Goldberg: A Life in Self Portraits features more than 80 self portraits, covering a time span from the mid-1950’s to the present. Presented in loosely chronological order, the work follows Los Angeles-based Goldberg from a young man doing formal oil paintings, through his artistic peak and deep disaffection with the contemporary art world in the 1980’s, through the slow decline of the last few years due to aging and illness.
Goldberg graduated from UCLA with a BA in art in 1959. He showed his work at the Ceeje Gallery until it closed in 1970. Aron continued to work as an artist, ultimately going back to UCLA where he earned his MFA in photography in 1977. He made a meager living teaching, writing, doing lighting design for performing arts and photography for artists and galleries. For many years he hosted a Sunday night figure drawing group for students and like-minded artists.
In conjunction with the exhibition and Offramp Gallery, Media For a Better Planet is producing an eponymous documentary. Media for a Better Planet is a new production company formed to create socially-conscious films and documentaries. Filming is ongoing and footage will be shown at Mr. Goldberg's opening at Offramp Gallery on Sunday, September 13th, 2009.
Aron Goldberg: A Life in Self Portraits is co-curated by Offramp Gallery director, Jane Chafin and artist, Nicholette Kominos.
by Jane Chafin
I first met Aron Goldberg in 1982, when I signed up for a class he was teaching at Otis College of Art and Design (then Otis/Parsons) which advertised pre-Cubist techniques of drawing and painting. In an era when art stars, hype and careerism had begun to dominate the contemporary art scene, Aron believed in a traditional, academic approach to teaching and making art, skills and techniques that seemed well on their way to extinction at the time.
Aron’s career as an artist had begun with great promise. He graduated from UCLA with a BA in art in 1959, and soon began showing his work at the Ceeje Gallery in Los Angeles, where he enjoyed a measure of success. In a Los Angeles Times review (November 25, 1966) of Goldberg’s 1966 solo show at the Ceeje, art critic William Wilson wrote:
"Judged by the most extreme standards current, the paintings of Aaron [sic] Goldberg at Ceeje Gallery are distinctly academic -- a situation that rather adds to the academic argument than subtracts from Goldberg who is obviously a painter of talent and terrible seriousness . . . The local artist paints glowering self-portraits, fish heads and, best of all, shiny red-tinged bones that were recently part of a living architecture. Their symbolism is immediately obvious. It speaks of death, emasculation and the drying up of the sources of life . . . The tragic humanity of this work recalls artists from Rembrandt to Soutine. If its seriousness is occasionally ponderous, it is also deeply felt and insistently real."
In an April 12, 1975 Artweek review that he himself wrote about fellow Ceeje alumnus Ed Carrillo, Goldberg described the Ceeje experience:
"The Ceeje mainly showed people who were UCLA graduate students and faculty. The art was romantic and visionary – with a vengeance. . . Ceeje art was youthful, maybe too learned, and it didn’t have the strength to survive the hardening of the local art scene when the moneymaking patterns became set. The gallery closed, soon dropped from public attention altogether and its artists became historical non-persons."
The reference to “historical non-persons” is no doubt also autobiographical. After the Ceeje closed in 1970, Aron continued to work as an artist, ultimately going back to UCLA where he earned his MFA in photography in 1977. He made a meager living teaching, writing, doing lighting design for performing arts and photography for artists and galleries. For many years he hosted a Sunday night figure drawing group for students and like-minded artists.
He continued to show in group exhibitions, but interest in his work diminished, leaving him feeling even more alienated from the art world. He continued to work prolifically, however, doing study after study from life -- bones, broken dolls, ghoulish masks, fish heads, figure studies and self portraits -- works mostly on paper. When asked why he did so many self portraits, Aron would reply, “because I can’t afford a model.”
In an unpublished response to art critic Robert Hughes’s Time Magazine review of the 1985 Whitney Biennial (“Careerism and Hype Amidst the Image Haze,” June 17, 1985) Goldberg, who viewed Hughes as a sympathetic voice, gives us a glimpse into his increasingly deep disaffection with the art world:
". . . On a more professional or disciplined level, [artists] only do what their college teachers have done for years: they twist themselves up to discover some new bit of the officially unknown and permutate it to death. Only the audience is different – swindled rich fools as opposed to inbred faculty lunatics. Such work is either trivial, ridiculous, or worse, brazen when it pokes superficially into some great mystery, which like the proverbial thistle, cannot be merely touched with impunity but must be grasped all at once."
Aron was a challenging teacher, a brilliant, funny, and warmly human person. I ultimately went my own way artistically, but the questions that drew me to Aron’s class in the first place lingered: What is art? How much of what we call contemporary art is really a case of the emperor’s new clothing? What happens to someone who digs in his heels and follows Aron’s difficult path, accepting a life of relative obscurity and poverty, while the world around him goes in a different direction?
It was with these questions in mind that, when I decided to open Offramp Gallery, my first studio visit was to Aron, with whom I had lost touch over the years. What I found on that studio visit was not so much an answer to my questions, but rather, the story of a life lived, for better or for worse, uncompromisingly in pursuit of an artistic ideal. I also found work that seems as remarkable to me today as it did over 25 years ago.
Now white-haired and in his 70’s, Aron is suffering from symptoms of aging and illness that have dramatically impaired his memory and left him unable to read. Despite the impairments, Aron continues to work, albeit through a different lens. The colors, brush strokes and rhythms are still recognizable, the subject matter less so. As my colleagues and I have worked our way through piles of his work over the last year -- jammed in corners, stashed under stair wells, pinned to the walls and strewn about -- cataloging and documenting, we have experienced the joy of discovery as each new gem was uncovered, as well as a deep respect for Aron and his work.
For their time, insight and enthusiasm I want to express my gratitude to: Nicholette Kominos, composer/filmmaker Justin Burnett, photographer Anita Bunn, Aron's sister Lillian Wintroub, and Todd Buckingham. Last, but not least, I want to thank Aron and his life partner, dancer Carolyn Berger (recently reunited after a 27-year separation), for their invaluable help, and for putting up with us as we have repeatedly invaded their lives.
by Nicholette Kominos
When Jane Chafin invited me to co-curate this exhibition of Aron Goldberg’s work, I didn’t know of him nor had I seen his work. But I did know Jane, and have known her for many years, and her knowledge and passion about this artist made me realize that this would be an extraordinary opportunity and experience that I wanted to be a part of.
The first time I met Aron Goldberg was at his home. As he led us to his studio, through the living room, the floor-to-ceiling bookcases were heavily weighted, overflowing with books, and art work was everywhere, not just on the walls, but stacked and strewn over every surface. We walked single file through the kitchen, a functional place but not important, except, perhaps, to make coffee, store the beer or wash the brushes. Here, too, work filled the corners and covered the walls. Stepping out the back door, into the garden, sculptural and wild, with cacti and overgrown plants we climbed the wobbly and vertiginous staircase to his studio. I was not surprised upon entering to find it chock full of artist’s tools and years worth of paintings and drawings. The statement was clear, his life had been dedicated to making art, everything else had been secondary.
Gingerly my colleagues and I moved through the space, around boxes of pastels and paint, students’ portfolios, old stereos. Aron didn’t remember which work he had or where it was. Through our many visits we searched through the layers of accumulated history, collecting one exquisite self portrait after another. The self portraits allowed us to see the trajectory of his life: from the beauty and idealism of youth, to the confidence and power of a mature artist aware of his talent, and finally to the humbling process of illness and aging.
Aron’s strong work ethic enabled him to create this large body of work, dominated by his self portraits. To draw the human form is an extraordinary challenge, but perhaps as his memory began to fail, and his beautiful formal techniques were diminishing, these self portraits served another purpose. As I imagine a man whose hold on reality was becoming delicate and unpredictable, the self portraits begin to seem like a means of survival. Aron’s later work, which valiantly reflects the neurological trauma, still resonates with his discipline and experience; so it is possible that this reflexive need to work may have also kept him tethered to his identity as an artist, and therefore to himself.
I would like to thank Aron Goldberg for allowing us into his life, and his partner Carolyn Berger for her great help and support of the project. I would also like to express my gratitude to Jane Chafin, gallery director and curator for including me in this process; to composer/filmmaker Justin Burnett; to photographer Anita Bunn; and to Todd Buckingham – all of whom make collaboration seem easy and as if anything is possible.
Click on thumbnails to view hi-res image slide show
Click image above to see a preview of Aron Goldberg: A Life in Self Portraits
Click image above to see opening reception footage, September 13, 2009