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Worldly art critic's work resurfaces

Amy Goldin always insisted on the bigger picture. And it changed people's lives.

September 19, 2003|MaLin Wilson-Powell | Special to The Times

For the most part, Goldin's more than 50 essays published during her lifetime are buried in old journals. Her papers -- including correspondence, lecture notes and a completed book on how to teach art history -- are in the Archives of American Art and must be read on microfiche. If you Google her name, you won't find much other than listings in artists bibliographies and an abstract of her 1978 essay "The Esthetic Ghetto: Some Thoughts About Public Art." It's worth it to dig this one up. In the essay, Goldin interrogates our confusion about public and private realms, deriding fuzzy thinking that is "a remnant of old-timey Humanism which believes in the artistic star system and not in art. But this is a little like believing in Newton and not the methods of science."

In a 1975 Artforum essay titled "Patterns, Grids, and Painting," Goldin differentiates the focus and intensification of certain parts of a scene required in ordinary looking from the activity of scanning required in looking at pattern. She could also be describing her lifelong quest as a writer. "Scanning is a much more specialized, anxious kind of looking. It contains an element of search, and unsatisfied search at that, since it implies a restless refusal to focus and attempt to grasp the nature of the whole."

With so many young artists interested in Pattern and Decoration, perhaps a new audience will rediscover Amy Goldin.

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MaLin Wilson-Powell is curator of exhibitions and curator of art after 1945 at the McNay Art Museum in San Antonio.

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