joshua neustein texts
Foreword To Joshua Neustein: Polish forests, magnetic fields, carbon copies..
by Susan Stoops

Since the 1970s, Joshua Neustein has approached drawing conceptually and physically as a site that is subject to conditions of dislocation, memory, and renewal. Born out of Neustein's lived experiences of displacement--moving with his family in the aftermath of World War II from Poland to the United States; emigrating to Israel after college where he spent 17 years; then returning to his current home, New York--the artist's drawings embody the volatile terrain where history and geography, narrative and place collide. Whether in the form of the intimate, dark allegories of the Carbon Series , the episodic erosions of the Magnetic Field Drawings, or the silent, scraped expanses of the Polish Forests, Neustein's art in paper explores the fragile philosophical boundaries between the construction and obliteration of meaning.

Realized with unconventional implements (knife, etching tool, steel brushes) yet through deliberate actions (scraping, folding, cutting, tearing), Neustein's oeuvre in paper is eloquent evidence of the radical yet humanist undercurrent of the artist's aesthetic and ethical positions. The generative identity characteristic of a Neustein drawing, ironically arrived at through "negative" (subversive) processes of separation rather than "additive" (conventional) mark making, parallels Neustein's ongoing aesthetic inquiry as a way to "unravel or disown my various identities" (Jewish, Polish, Israeli, and American).

Although shifting states of existence are central to the identities of these drawings, Neustein is committed to retaining the original integrity and completeness of each material he uses-- despite the dislocation or mutilation, no part of the carbon paper, metal filings, or paper is abandoned or lost. Surely, Neustein's itinerant history has shaped what seems central to his conceptual process as an artist: "I'm always renegotiating my context."

Neustein's drawings engage issues of cause and effect, individual and collective fates, and explore how the past and the future are entwined. Although Neustein's acts of drawing register the immediacy and "presentness" of their making, cumulative actions (and reactions) resist being judged as isolated events in time and place; rather, meaning occurs in terms of consequence.

Susan L. Stoops


Rose Art Museum

Susan Stoops, co-curator of "Polish Forests, Magnetic Fields, Carbon Copies", 1998.