joshua neustein texts
Neustein Now
by Gil Goldfine

JOSHUA NEUSTEIN follows close on the heels of "Drawing Now," the Tel Aviv museum's comprehensive exhibit of international contemporary art). In many ways he echoes much of its content and enlarges upon its visual hypotheses.

Neustein belongs to the growing circle of artists who explore rather than conclude; and who experiment instead of making definitive statements. Their end products are often created as transient pieces that provide us with more information about the process of art and the use of materials than they do about the pleasures of an aesthetic experience.

For many years, as an adjunct to his conceptual exercises, Neustein has been having a running romance with paper of all weights and stocks, investigating its physical properties for the purpose of formulating intellectual concepts and shrouding them in artistic terminology.

This current mammoth show is an excellent interim report reviewing his familiar patterns of the past eight years. Given the opportunity to enlarge works beyond the scale of human proportions and to present them in spacious surroundings, Neustein has been able to burst out of previous restrictions to present some of his best work to date.
      TRADITIONALLY, the support for picture making was paper, canvas, plaster or plank, a flat surface that carried descriptive, markings in pencil, charcoal, paint, etc. Within the modernist idiom, paper has become for Neustein the art object in itself, with no separation between image and surface. His penetrating search has led to a point where, paper is now the objective summary of his art, while the act of changing its character is the subject.
      Yet Neustein's art for many reasons, is an enigmatic one. It seems to fall between the norms of what the forms of art are all about: To consider his work inconsistent with painting or sculpture and totally in the realm of drawing, would negate his proven sensibility towards deep, amorphous space, colorist values of gray tonal gradations, and the occasional fixed composition.

Essentially, he has been creating installations, units of art in which a variety of substances, usually paper, have been sprayed, cut, torn, folded, framed, bunched and shredded; then hung on walls, stacked on pedestals or strewn on the floor.

In most instances these installations are re-creations of previous attempts; here their placement, scope, proportions and tonal ranges have been altered to fit the spacious new site.

A limited number of assembled Compositions are organized around a tree trunk whose "profile" has been traced in pencil in varying positions as- an attempt to codify a linear view that in reality doesn't exist. This symbolic gesture clarifies Neustein's point that art and nature are symbiotic and that both live and develop independently of each other or as illusionist partners.

      NEUSTEIN'S work is far too personal to be considered Minimal. It lacks the surface polish and occasional dehumanization that characterize some minimalist art. There is an abundance of spectacle without sensationalism in the plan, proportion and tactility of Neustein's art. The way in which he uses linear thrusts and gestures, or graceful folds and rolls, quite negates the obsession of fixed emotions and static neutrality of minimalist art.

His stippled surfaces are full of energy, particles that expand and contract. And I would even be bold enough to suggest that they venture into the area of romance and naturalism, as in "Red Eagle Run," where long torn, stretches of paper suspiciously inherit the moonlit seas of an Albert Ryder.

Or in the tall vertical piece, "One sheet in six strips stacked." Although there is a basic mathematical concept in this work, which is amplified into art by a quivering contrast between ragged and razor-sharp edges, it possesses a totemic quality, as if it were a low-relief obelisk of an anthropological statement.

      Within this context, one could postulate that Neustein belongs to a lineage of abstract expressionists who also divested their paintings of literal messages, forging images that became objects in their own right, yet carrying within them the spiritual plight of the artist. Barnett Newman is one, especially his series, "The Stations of the Cross"; and another is Ad Reinhardt, whose brooding black canvases are elegant examples of a timeless expression.

Despite their scale, barrenness and visual simplicity, most of Neustein's installations are non-aggressive, open and easily responded to -provided the spectator is willing to accept art at its most difficult level.
      A SPECIAL feature of this exhibit, and I think a first for the Tel Aviv Museum, was the workshop atmosphere in which it was created. The public, invited to visit and browse during the week prior to the opening, witnessed the procedures and questioned the artist about his aims and objectives. This public atmosphere, to a great extent an educational process, further crystallizes Neustein's conceptual thinking and emphasizes his resistance to formalized artistic expression in which images are pre-packaged within. fixed frames. (Tel Aviv Museum, King Saul Blvd.)

Goldfine, Gil. "Neustein Now" The Jerusalem Post Magazine, Aug. 5, '77.