Last Sunday I attended a private function held in celebration of the showing of Russell Gray Goodman’s Daytona dreamer as part of the Gertrude Street Projection Festival. Russell Goodman was a Melbourne artist whose untimely death in 1988 cut his life and emerging artistic practice tragically short. Daytona dreamer, a kinetic sculpture of complex construction and presence, has been methodically restored and refurnished by Russell’s brother, Chris Goodman, over the last four years. It was exhibited for the first time in twenty-two years in the front window of Industria for the festival.
Russell Goodman started out as a painter but a mind for design and construction, and an interest in the constructivists and the Bauhaus soon led him to make intricate kinetic sculptures that explored themes of creation and destruction. Like many artists of the 1980s he was concerned with the fragility of humanity in light of nuclear armament, the AIDS epidemic and dominant right-wing politics. Goodman hung out in St Kilda and was part of the growing local scene that was frequented by artists and musicians and typified by venues such as the Crystal Ballroom and The Espy. It was in St Kilda that he died after being violently attacked by a local grifter.
Goodman spent two years making Daytona dreamer and it was first exhibited at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art in 1988 as part of a series of solo exhibitions by young artists. Later that same year Goodman drove the disassembled work up to Sydney to be shown at the Ivan Dougherty Gallery as part of the exhibition New artists: Melbourne. This was his last exhibition.
Chris Goodman is a systems architect who spoke admiringly of his brother to a gathered audience of family and friends last Sunday. The four years spent refurbishing Daytona dreamer for exhibition no doubt lent him a unique opportunity to reconnect with his brother, and the work’s restaging brought obvious joy to those who knew Russell.
As I walked home that night I passed by Daytona Dreamer lit up and in action in the Industria window. Its messages about creation and destruction—the spinning wheel, the pumping hammers, the pulsing lights—and how closely these reflected the short life of Russell Gray Goodman reminded me again how powerfully aligned art and life can be.
Russell Gray Goodman, Daytona dreamer, Gertrude Street Projection Festival, Melbourne, 20–29 July 2012.