The first paintings one encounters in Jasper Goodrich’s exhibition PILING at Extase are a portrait and an abstract, gridded composition. Goodrich described these two paintings as tangents in his studio activity. The paintings offer a kind of access point to his expansive practice of image making. “It felt right,” he told me, “to start the show with the tangents.”
Under the interstate near the artist’s studio there is a concrete piling. It is one of many concrete pilings holding up the highway, but it is a specific concrete piling.1 Goodrich made his first painting of this piling en plein air back around March of 2020. The artwork’s odd composition is weighted by the gravity of the large concrete form. A skull floats ominously in the foreground. Subsequent piling images were made in relation to that original painting, then from memory, and eventually through intuitive muscle memory.
NOTATION In the S bus, in the rush hour. A chap of about 26, felt hat with a cord instead of a ribbon, neck too long, as if someone’s been having a tug-of-war with it. People getting off. The chap in question gets annoyed with one of the men standing next to him. He accuses him of jostling him every time anyone goes past. A snivelling tone which is meant to be aggressive. When he sees a vacant seat he throws himself on to it. Two hours later, I meet him in the Cour de Rome, in front of the gare Saint-Lazare. He’s with a friend who’s saying: “You ought to get an extra button put on your overcoat.” He shows him where (at the lapels) and why.1
During my visit to PILING, Goodrich pointed out a round, green tree in the upper left hand corner of that first piling painting. In another iteration, the tree is reduced to a green dot. In a third iteration, the green dot becomes a yellow dot. “Artists always say they have their things,” Goodrich explained to me. “I think one of my things is just how a tree becomes the sun.” This epitomizes the great joy the artist takes in the act of making, always building in order to learn how an image works. With a background in printmaking and an active teaching practice, repetition is central to Goodrich’s work. PILING is, at its core, an exercise in iteration.
METAPHORICALLY In the centre of the day, tossed among the shoal of travelling sardines in a coleopter with a big white carapace, a chicken with a long, featherless neck suddenly harangued one, a peace-abiding one, of their number, and its parlance, moist with protest, was unfolded upon the airs. Then, attracted by a void, the fledgling precipitated itself thereunto. In a bleak, urban desert, I saw it again that selfsame day, drinking the cup of humiliation offered by a lowly button.
Two torch welded, vertical steel sculptures are installed on either side of the piling paintings. These two sculptures—materially taut, their energy pressing out against themselves—act as brackets for the nine paintings between them. Related sculptures (4 pairs of steel brackets and one milled and carved wood object) are installed in the adjacent closet like reflections of vertical bodies. Goodrich imagines these brackets functioning linguistically, structuring the relationships between works, allowing for a set of paintings or other objects to be suspended between them, one of many possible iterations of the set.
APHERESIS Ot us sengers. Ticed ung an eck embled at affe ring at ith ted ord. Ot gry nother senger plaining rod oes very one n ut. Ent at own here as ree eat. Ing ack eft ank ticed king own ith riend ving vice ow egant wing irst ton oat.
As an exhibition, PILING is full. It pushes against the limits of the apartment gallery which houses it. Goodrich installed a more reduced version of PILING in a friend’s studio before the Extase show was conceived. That installation appears in retrospect like a ghost of the current exhibition. Against that shadow, Goodrich approached this iteration by adding more and more, an attitude which he describes as his pure essence. A literal pile of paintings reflects this approach, along with a binder full of photographs produced through a collaboration with Ethan Barrett. The inclusion of the binder adds a different texture to the exhibition; the intimacy of flipping through its pages focuses a viewer’s attention differently than standing in front of a wall of paintings. It also emphasizes the social aspect of Goodrich’s work: the photographs are takeaways, a gift which scatters the work beyond the duration of the exhibition.
HAIKU Summer S long neck
plait hat toes abuse retreat
station button friend
In the midst of the pandemic, when Goodrich began his piling paintings, nothing felt certain. Looking to create some structure and consistency in the early days of working from home, many took up daily walks through their neighborhoods. The pink dappled ground of one of the Piling paintings recalls the spring flowers of that time. When everything was unsettled, we held onto whatever stability we could find. Seeing the piling on the way into his studio every day, I can imagine the emotional grounding it provided to Goodrich. Like early quarantine walks, this piling served—and continues to serve—as an emotional anchor. A way to process.
INTERJECTIONS Psst! h’m! ah! oh! hem! ah! ha! hey! well! oh! pooh! poof! ow! oo! ouch! hey! eh! h’m! pffft! Well! hey! pooh! oh! h’m! Right! 2
Even as we enter into a new era of the pandemic, one hopefully filled with less death and more certainty, Goodrich’s paintings offer a way of getting through it all: turning a tree into a sun, iterating and playing, piling on and working through. For Goodrich, making is inherently hopeful. As I was leaving Extase, passing by those tangential paintings, I found them transformed by this hope. The two paintings act as brackets to the set that is PILING, indexing how we are shaped by our experiences, the ways we find to continue on, even if just for the sake of continuing on.
1 According to StructuredFoundation.com, “Foundation construction and repair involves the use of a number of different materials and tools. One of the most effective foundational support tools are piles. Piles come in a number of different shapes and sizes, but one of the most common types is the concrete pile… Pressed concrete pilings are inserted into the ground by force until they reach the point of refusal, which is typically a layer of rock or rough dirt.”
2 “Metaphorically,” “Apheresis,” “Haiku,” and “Interjections” are four of ninety-nine iterations of the same short story, “Notation,” in Raymond Queneau’s 1947 Exercises in Style. I intersperse these texts throughout my own both as a historical contextualization of iterative language and as a way of pointing out from Goodrich’s work, returning to the boundless potential of the world we are moving through.