I stopped in to see dealer Robert Goff in his West 23rd Street space a few Saturdays ago. Ever since his scrumptious business partner of the last five years, Cassie Rosenthal, split for the left coast with her husband in January, Goff has reconfigured his program, knocking out the glitzy conceptual installation focus that was the specialty of Goff + Rosenthal in favor of a pictorial philosophy best described as "off the shelf," picture planes by a variety of artists loaded with imagery, the knickknack school of painting.
Goff's current artist, a charming wooly bear named Simon English, managed to fly around the volcano plume from England just in time to make his opening in late April. His pieces remind one of those rubber geek heads that you push the eyes out in a bulge, with pink sucked-in lips and a bald dome. There is a lot to look at, not all of it great, but not boring, either.
Goff's big seller is the Yale-trained Iraqi expatriate Ahmed Alsoudani, whose Goyaesque tremblings of blood and war are a huge favorite of megacollector François Pinault, thus assuring that Goff can continue to operate his second space in Berlin and indulge the purple paisley designer shirts which keep this particular dealer looking fresh. Goff also represents the divinely underappreciated Iona Rozeal Brown, whose new out-there self-portraits feature her roaring through Japan on a Big Wheel, as well as the understated princess of art world royalty, Isca Greenfield-Sanders, whose rocker painter husband Sebastian Blanck just released an excellent CD.
For campsters in the Goff tent, there is painter Ain Cocke, who does sailor boys in sailor suits. Either way, Robert Goff exhibits all the qualities endearing to an art journalist (which he used to be, at Forbes magazine). He is always good for a quote, for a tasty secondary morsel in the back room and for a wild, uneven devotion to painting that is messy, figurative and often coyly transgressive. I miss Cassie Rosenthal a lot, but I wish Robert Goff a lengthy prosperity.
Simon English, “Full English,” Apr. 24-June 12, 2010, at Robert Goff Gallery, 537B West 23rd Street, New York, N.Y. 10011.
CHARLIE FINCH is co-author of Most Art Sucks: Five Years of Coagula (Smart Art Press).