Diner Coffee and Pickup Trucks: Ralph Goings’s Hyperreal Americana
As one of a group of groundbreaking photorealist painters, Ralph Goings’s paintings elevate the everyday and everyman. Notable for the attention to tactile surfaces, his works emphasize unnoticed color, texture, and luminosity of familiar objects and spaces and helped to put West Coast art on the map in 1970s California.
His signature style depicting classic roadstop haunts—from diners, to McDonalds, to gas stations—renders interiors and exteriors in almost fetishistic detail, coaxing beauty from the quotidian. After a childhood in working class California, and a stint in the military, Goings became associated with members of the Photorealist movement, including Robert Bechtle and Richard McLean at the (then called) California College of Arts and Crafts. A 1974 move from California to New York marked a switch from paintings of bright exteriors to contemplative interiors and still lifes in diners—a shift that further emphasized his mastery of light, reflections and careful composition.
Like other photorealist artists, Goings works originally spurred from an interest in a uniquely American lifestyle, and rejected the concept that pop art was the best way to depict it. Instead, he painted directly from 35mm photographs, often projected onto a canvas—a step away from the actual subject that combined the techniques of the Old Masters with a machine-like artifice. In 1973, Goings said of his choice of subject: “Reality is possessed of a visual order and logic at once more dynamic and more subtle than any vista I can contrive. I try to perceive this splendor as objectively as possible and render it with believable authenticity. Realist painting provides an occasion to visually savor reality.”
Goings now works with photographs of studio set-ups, a development that allows him to have further control of the effects of light and surface. His works document the frozen, sublime moments of people, places, and things, effectively expanding and embellishing the ordinary to create an enchanted hyperreality both familiar and foreign, ubiquitous and anonymous.