Author: Joseph Nechvatal --- Date: 11/4/95--- Copyright: ThingReviews NYC

Nan Goldin
Galerie Yvon Lambert
108 Rue Vieille du Temple, Paris
Oct. 24 - Dec. 23

From October 24th to the 23rd of December galerie Yvon Lambert is presenting "The Golden Years", a mini retrospective of the photographs of Nan Goldin. Beginning with "The Ballad of Sexual Dependency", through the "Tokyo Spring Fever" up to the present year, the photographs and slides presented here span the breath of Nan Goldin's oeuvre and thus extend themselves to reflective synopsis. The works are so well known it would be redundant to describe them here. In general the work as a whole collides bawdiness and faith, sub-pop culture and high art, complexity and ease; all at one and the same time. The tonal and syntactic surface of her work is often spare and one might say conversational or informal, with its logical trajectories seemingly resolved. And yet there are arguments within her arguments to be discerned, a subtle questioning behind the axiomatic, and a sense of loss at the near edge of her delectation. Goldin's work embodies and deepens the multiple ramifications of a phrase easily (and aptly) applied to describe it: deceptively easy. In referring to something as "deceptively easy", it is implied that to be merely easy would be deficient and that difficulty has inherent value, and that difficulty and its attendant worth is heightened by seeming otherwise. It is one of the rare instances in which deception is given the value of a deeper truth. Here the perceptually misleading becomes the artifice of art. Illusion trades partners with truth in the elaborate dance of representation. And such is the case in the photographs of Nan Goldin. Not only are her photographs taken with cunning perceptual ease, but she directly evokes the issues of deception, falsehood and illusion - as well as their counterparts: authenticity, truth and the "real". Her work questions the very possibility of separating a person from his or her immediate presentation and of establishing a measure of genuineness of that person.

There are of course great pleasures to be found in such deceptions and in the very failure of photography to accurately imitate life. Where her photographs can function as a filtering mask between the viewer and her world, they are also the only remaining presence of her world of colorful kitsch. Goldin addresses both the joyous possibilities of artifice and the burdens and sorrows of their disconnection; of the rifts between world and image, and the self and other.

In fact the feeling her body of work produces is itself a lie, as one must be in motion, must move incessantly in outlandish circles to perpetuate the illusion that one is the still center of an unstable fascinating world. Thus her photographic humor, inclusiveness, and flirtations are double-edged. She is intimate, yet not overly confiding, as her photographs play on an undercurrent of common knowledge, clichˇ, and gay culture. Even sex and death become cultural icons, the paraphernalia of daily life transformed into potentially weighty images. A series of transformations, both tonal and imagistic, plays itself out over the course of viewing the entire show, building a web of images and illusions poised within a life which hovers and changes position. For we do not stand still but pass in and out of view and it is we ourselves that are moved past her static window of reference.

The question poised by "The Golden Years" is not then simply one of being, but of the chosen plucked from amongst the would be's. Along with a series of finer distinctions, contradictions and options, this question of the scattering and collecting of possible beings and outcomes seems to me to be the central core of her life's work. Intimacy, connection, even being becomes a matter of momentary resemblance. These resemblances, and hence ghostly presences are contingent on photography and its ability to distinguish and liken. As noted, the frame of the photograph, its continuities and omissions, is the source of both this failure and joy.

-Joseph Nechvatal

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Yasuko Ichikawa --

Yasuko Ichikawa --

Would you send the NAN GOLDIN's text of this site to me? I'm studying contemporary art.