A Cosmic Rarity

Jack Goldstein’s The Planets

Jack Goldstein was a conceptual artist who worked in various mediums over the course of forty years, often against the grain of prevailing styles; he studied under John Baldessari at CalArts in the 1970s and became affiliated with the famed “pictures generation” of artists in New York. 

“I arrive at a sound through an image.” – Jack Goldstein

In the 1980s, he began making monumental, flat, air-brushed paintings of semi-abstract imagery, pulled from found photographs relating to medicine, science, technology and war. These paintings were partially a reaction to the resurgence of painterliness and what he called “cro-magnon man” paintings from artists like Julian Schnabel and David Salle. Goldstein wanted to make paintings that didn't seem like they were made by a human, that felt “as though they were being output by a computer...the artifacts of technology embedded in them.”


Goldstein was an artist ahead of his time, engaging with the existential crises brought about by living in an increasingly technological landscape. His paintings from this era are often viewed as nihilistic, eerie in their cosmic emptiness and brooding dislocation. At this time, Goldstein also created The Planets, a suite of six records made with found sounds from library archives, released by Glenn Branca's Neutral Records. The Planets serves as an important compendium to his paintings, elevating them to a total experience of image and sound and giving them a more textural, nuanced context. The cyclical songs in the suite, which recall each other throughout, weave together all of the broadest implications of the history and future of humanity—triumph, devastation, awe, and disillusionment, and back and over again. A true rarity, The Planets is an important early exploration into the anxiety and exaltation of the digital age.

Each record has to be played in order to locate from our memory what planet each record might suggest. The records are made up of found musical recording, from sci-films that have been remixed...Since 90% of the universe is in total blackness, and one needs a telescope to reveal what is out there, through meditation—one has to play the record to locate its identity.

Jack Goldstein