Ralph Goings was born in Corning, California, and studied art at the California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland in the early ‘50s. He recalls that the prevailing interest then was in Abstract Expressionism, and most of the students and teachers had little time or patience for any other approach. Goings followed the trend as a student and painted abstractly for several years afterward.
He began to feel dissatisfied after a while, however. “Abstract painting just didn’t offer me the kind of satisfaction I wanted” he recalls, “so I tried, representation.” This involved dusting off skills and approaches learned early in art school and long forgotten. lnitially, Goings didn’t take his new work too seriously and hesitated to show it to fellow artists. He first colaged images from magazine photographs and then did paintings of single figures on neutral backgrounds using his students as models (by this time he was teaching high school art in Sacramento). But these subjects, he believed, were somehow too “arty,” and he began to look around “the rest of the world” for something new.
He hit on pickup trucks and highway paraphernalia “things,” he says,“that were so common in the environment that people didn’t even look at them.” Breaking new ground, Pop art had shown that it was possible to make paintings of mundane manufactured objects and mass media images; thus Goings felt “permitted” to approach everyday subject matter not painted previously. The kind of finish and intensity he developed, however, proved far more spectacular than anything the Pop artists had contemplated.
Goings adopted a deliberately cool approach. Lie photographed the subject, projecting the image from a slide onto the canvas or paper and then painting it with a kind of seamless, flat surface in which the brushwork, or indeed any human touch, was not in evidence. He crammed the paintings with visual effects, featuring extremely neutral even banal subject matter. There exist in them no romance, no hints at intuitive insights, no sensitive brushwork or quirks of drawing.