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Jack Goldstein’s “Metro Goldwyn Mayer,” 1975
by Andrew Berardini




On a blood red field, gold scrollwork unfurls around a window (perhaps a mere picture or a simple opening?), the framing of which has emblazoned the words in Latin, Ars Gratia Artis, Art for Art’s Sake, and is otherwise stripped of language or logos. The lion roars, he turns his head, he roars again, he turns his head, roars again, ad infinitum.

As familiar as this picture may be to anyone who’s watched movies, especially old ones, we will of course recognize the lion that roared to introduce hundreds and hundreds of the movies made by the once-powerhouse Hollywood movie studio Metro Goldwyn Meyer.

Is this work of art a love letter to cinema, capturing for just a moment, something magical and intrinsic to cinematic history? How many moviegoers have sunk down into their seats, eyes twinkling and excited for what was to come, a swashbuckler, a love story, a buddy film, a cop movie, a comedy, the lion’s roar a cue?

Is it a hard joke on the empty repetitions of the Hollywood machine? The epileptic lion stuck in a repeat, again and again roaring forever and more over the same dreck the studios churn out with mildly different titles, the actors' faces more familiar than our own.

Is it even perhaps something deeper and a touch darker? The subliminal power of movies to hypnotize us in its movements, its lulling images, its repetitions. Has the artist Jack Goldstein set the image off so that it can here finally answer for itself? Being a picture unstuck, floating, from the original intended meaning, does it here, isolated and repeated, finally let its meaning be known?

Included in Douglas Crimp’s landmark 1977 “Pictures” exhibition, does Jack Goldstein (the producer of the forever roaring lion) fit squarely into the educated and theoretically savvy (and internally divisive) gang of appropriationists, along with Sherrie Levine and Richard Prince? Perhaps as Goldstein himself put it in an interview to Morgan Fisher in 1977, Goldstein with MGM fits "in the gap between Minimalism and Pop art."

Maybe as art it can be all these things and more; there floating in red, a work of art merely for its own sake.

-Andrew Berardini


A retrospective of Jack Goldstein’s work curated by Philipp Kaiser will open at the Orange County Museum of Art in summer 2012.

(Image/video: Jack Goldstein, Metro Goldwyn Mayer, 1975. Video still and Yotube video, originally a two minute loop on 16mm film.)

Posted by Andrew Berardini on 10/10/10

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