Aha Moment: Kenneth Goldsmith & John Cage


Friday, August 09, 2013

Kenneth Goldsmith trained as a visual artist at the Rhode Island School of Design. In the 1980s, his work became wildly popular with collectors and was shown at some of the best galleries in New York City. But he grew frustrated with the byproducts of that success. “What I had become was a businessman,” Goldsmith says. “And I did this so I wouldn’t have to become a businessman!”

Goldsmith quit the art world. Looking for his next move, he remembered a book from his college days: Silence, the 1961 collection of lectures and essays by avant-garde composer John Cage. “I began seeing that there was a whole other way to be an artist in the world other than that which I was taught,” Goldsmith says. “Cage gave me license to become an artist by doing less and saying less and fearing less.”

He turned to poetry, transcribing and reframing a year of radio weather reports into a narrative of the four seasons. Although he served as the first poet laureate at the Museum of Modern Art, Goldsmith admits he hasn’t been able to make a living off of his poetry alone. But he has no regrets. “When we give up things, we get something else — and I think that’s Cage’s message.”

→ Is there a poem, song, book, or another work of art that has changed your life?
 Tell us in a comment below, or by e-mail.

Comments [3]

Frank De Canio from Union City

In poetry there's a cliche about writing that 'shows' instead of 'telling'. But in this segment it seemed to be all telling. In a segment that was about Mr. Goldsmith's transposing found texts into poetry where no examples were given I felt somewhat perplexed. What was the point of the piece? Usually there's a lead-in to a result. Here the lead-in seemed to BE the result. But perhaps the example that was given of a weather report was meant to be the poem? In that case it seemed to be a "found text" instead of a transposition of one and a not very successful one at that, as far as I can tell. In any case I can't imagine people listening to John Cage 100 years hence as they will Beethoven or Mozart or any of the other pop, jazz and classical musicians that we revere today. But I guess in the last analysis it's what you enjoy doing that counts. In any case my comments refer to the segment and not to Mr. Goldsmith's poetry which I have not read.

Aug. 11 2013 12:59 PM
Slyvia Butterfield from New York City


Actually, you're wrong. I found this old bio online (http://epc.buffalo.edu/authors/goldsmith/goldsmith-cv-08.pdf) and Goldsmith's early years are, in fact, full of art world acclaim. This biographical list from the early 90s, includes reviews by both Robert Smith in the NYTImes and Jerry Saltz, who evidently called Goldsmith one of the 10 artists for the 90s. It also includes heavy references from The New Yorker, Artforum, Art in America, Vogue, and so forth. It appears that in fact, Goldsmith was quite accomplished. No Mr. Brainwash here.


Borum, Jennifer P, "Kenneth Goldsmith at John Post Lee Gallery," Artforum. February.
Freiser, Andrew, "Selections/Winter '93," Cover, March.
Kohen, Helen L., "Text and Images at MDCC Galleries," The Miami Herald, Nov. 13.
Kohen, Helen L, "In This Exhibit, Clothes Make the Art," Miami Times Herald.
Leslie, Rich, "Time Arts: Kenneth Goldsmith and Joan La Barbara," The New Art
Examiner, Summer.
Miles, Eileen, "Prints Of Words," Print Collectors Newsletter, Sept.-Oct.
Pagel, David, "Kenneth Goldsmith at Sue Spaid Fine Art," The LA Times, June.
Rice, Robin, "Kenneth Goldsmith:73 Poems," Philadelphia City Paper, October.
Schwartzman,Alan, "Selections/Winter 1993," The New Yorker, February 1.
Saltz, Jerry, "Kenneth Goldsmith at John Post Lee," Art In America, April.
Saltz, Jerry, "10 Artists For The '90s," Art & Auction, May.
Siroto, Rose, "Evening Star," Vogue, February.
Smith, Roberta, "Group Shows in SoHo for a Weekend of Gallery Hopping," The New York
Times, January 15.
Sozanski, Edward J., "Kenneth Goldsmith at Beaver College," The Philadelphia
Inquirer, October 8.
Taylor, Robert, "Balka, Ischar, and Goldsmith at MIT", The Boston Globe, March 26

Aug. 11 2013 09:15 AM
Ahahaha from NYC NY

Happened to catch this today and wondered, who was this very successful sculptor (according to him) of the 80's who I had not heard of before? I went through my issues of ARTFORUM...nada. Ditto with Art News, Art in America.
Google was also not much of a help in locating any internationally significant exhibits of the 80's. The ART PRICE INDEX had no listings.
OK, so there are a few links to a few exhibits of more current work which in themselves leave me with many questions. Did STUDIO 360 seriously vet this guy? If so, would you care to share where these important exhibits of the 80's were held, what significant critics reviewed his work? If I am wrong, my apologies, but it seems to be that this is a spin off of "Exit through the Gift Shop".

Aug. 10 2013 08:20 PM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.