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Artists Ralph Goings
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Ralph Goings

American Painter

Movement: Photorealism

Born: May 9, 1928 - Corning, CA

Ralph Goings Timeline

Quotes

"In 1963 I wanted to start painting again but I decided I wasn't going to do abstract pictures. It occurred to me that I should go as far to the opposite as I could. ... It occurred to me that projecting and tracing the photograph instead of copying it freehand would be even more shocking."
Ralph Goings
"I just want to keep doing what I'm able to do, health permitting, as long as I can. I don't plan any specific changes but as I've gotten older I'm taking more and more chances. That could lead to some change. My biggest plan is just to keep going."
Ralph Goings
"To copy a photograph literally was considered a bad thing to do. It went against all of my art school training... some people were upset by what I was doing and said 'it's not art, it can't possibly be art'. That gave me encouragement in a perverse way, because I was delighted to be doing something that was really upsetting people... I was having a hell of a lot of fun..."
Ralph Goings
"I am interested in the light and the effect it has on surfaces, and the spaces where these objects exist. Also, the objects themselves, and how their form is defined by their surface and the light...and that ultimately creates the illusion of the three-dimensional object even though it is on a flat surface. That whole package of mechanical art is a concern and part of my interest. The surfaces of objects really fascinate me. I think what drew me to the diners in the first place was all the metal and glass, the vinyl and so forth."
Ralph Goings
"Looking at the slides I take is where the selective process begins. I look at the pictures over and over again and finally one seems to say, 'Do me.'"
Ralph Goings

"My paintings are about light, about the way things look in their environment and especially about how things look painted. Form, color and space are at the whim of reality, their discovery and organization is the assignment of the realist painter."

Ralph Goings Signature

Synopsis

Ralph Goings's photorealist paintings of everyday American life say a lot about the artist himself and his family history, one marked by the poverty of the Great Depression. He painted matter-of-fact, precisely rendered snapshots of the American working class lifestyle in a dignified and poetic manner. While he began his career by experimenting with the emotionally unrestrained, painterly style of Abstract Expressionism, he quickly rejected it and moved onto his trademark style and subject matter grounded in emphatic realism. His precise, detailed approach to painting was in part inspired by the renewed emphasis on Realism in the late 1960s - except that Goings was never particularly interested in critiquing consumer culture. His polished, smoothly painted, hyper-realistic still lifes and genre paintings speak less to edgy, postmodern experimentation and more to the longstanding tradition of virtuoso illusionistic painting. This may explain in part the broad and enduring popularity of Goings's work: viewers have always enjoyed paintings that fool their eyes, that trick them into believing that what they are seeing in a painted image is the real thing rather than just a representation of it.

Key Ideas

Goings created a niche for himself in the Photorealist movement by creating paintings that didn't just fool the eye or ponder the effects of light on various surfaces, but also explored the visual culture of working-class America. His diner, truck, and condiment still-life paintings don't dwell on the great philosophical questions as much as they subtly encourage the viewer to consider the small ones. The daily routine and the person punching the clock are, on the other hand, quietly elevated, dignified. Repeated often as they are, such works suggest that Goings has arrived at some basic understanding of how subject matter and technique can fuse and produce the sort of effect that makes a stack of donuts or a ketchup bottle, beautifully rendered, seem somehow monumental.
Unlike his Photorealist colleague, Richard Estes, who created his illusionistic paintings by cobbling together multiple photographs to produce a convincingly holistic finished image, Goings typically took single photos of subjects, projected them directly onto his canvas or paper, and proceeded from there. He relished defying prohibitions against using photographs to create compositions of paintings, saying, "That it was a bad thing to do...sort of added to the sweetness of it." In some ways, his work is an homage to the photograph and the illusion it provides of authorial remove and neutrality.
Born and having begun his artistic career in California, Goings is possibly best known for the sun-drenched images of trucks, trailers, diners and the like from his native state. Whether reflecting the intense light of the hot afternoon sun or shimmering coolly in low winter light, a Goings painting of an Airstream trailer speaks of the terrain and environmental conditions of the California desert, providing the viewer with a very palpable sense of place.

Biography

Ralph Goings Photo

Childhood and Education

From an early age, Goings has memories of his father being "a classic victim of the Great Depression." For the working-class at that time, it was extremely difficult to find work; often, temporary or "odd" jobs comprised the only available opportunities for earning even scant wages at the time.

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Ralph Goings Biography Continues

Influences and Connections

Influences on Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Influenced by Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Ralph Goings
Interactive chart with Ralph Goings's main influences, and the people and ideas that the artist influenced in turn.
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Artists

Giorgio MorandiGiorgio Morandi
Arshile GorkyArshile Gorky
Johannes VermeerJohannes Vermeer
Thomas EakinsThomas Eakins

Personal Contacts

Wayne ThiebaudWayne Thiebaud

Movements

Abstract ExpressionismAbstract Expressionism
Pop ArtPop Art

Influences on Artist
Ralph Goings
Ralph Goings
Years Worked: 1962 - Current
Influenced by Artist

Artists

Don EddyDon Eddy
John BaederJohn Baeder

Personal Contacts

Wayne ThiebaudWayne Thiebaud

Movements

PhotorealismPhotorealism

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Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors

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Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors
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