Ralph Goings


Ralph Goings (b.1928, Corning, CA; d.2016, Sacramento, CA) was an original member of the West Coast Photorealists during the late 1960s, celebrated for his light-filled but matter-of-fact portrayal of archetypal mid-twentieth century America – laundromats, gas stations, supermarkets, hamburger stands, fast-food eateries and vintage automobiles. Born to a working-class family, Goings had an early ambition to pursue a creative career, studying at the California College of Arts & Crafts in Oakland in the early-1950s and, in 1965, an MFA in painting at Sacramento State College. His first solo exhibition took place at OK Harris Gallery in 1970. Following its success, Goings moved to New York State in 1974 to pursue his artistic ambitions full-time. 

This move focused Goings’ energies on depicting the interiors of quintessential American diners, including still-life paintings of their condiments. These intimate views of seating booths, gleaming stainless steel counters and glass ketchup bottles contrast with his earlier depictions of bright, exterior Californian space. While portrayed in an objective manner that enhances his subject’s mundanity, Goings’ use of intense light – he photographed his subjects on exceptionally bright mornings – gives them an elegant glamour. Working from multiple 35mm colour slides of the subject, Goings made detailed pencil drawings of his preferred image, enlarging it with a projector onto canvas, a process he described as using ‘the impersonal, mechanical image of the photograph to paint’. Initially criticised by his peers for working from photographs, Goings defended his practice, his paintings going on to become icons of Photorealism.

Paintings by Goings are held in important institutional collections including Guggenheim and MOMA in New York. His paintings featured in seminal early presentations, including Harald Szeemann’s documenta 5: Questioning Reality – Pictorial Worlds Today, Kassel (1972) and Photo-Realism, at the Serpentine Gallery, London (1973). Recent institutional group exhibitions include American Dream, National Museum in Krakow, Poland (2009); Picturing America: Photorealism in the 1970s, Deutsche Guggenheim, Berlin (2009); Photorealism: 50 Years of Hyperrealistic Painting, (2013-2017); Hyperrealismo 1967-2013, Bilbao Fine Arts Museum, Spain (2015); HyperAmerica: Landscape - Image - Reality, Kunsthaus Graz, Austria (2015); A Feast for the Eyes, Nassau County Museum of Art, New York (2016); From Lens to Eye to Hand: Photorealism 1969 to Today, Parrish Art Museum, New York (2017-2018); and Chrome Dreams and Infinite Reflections: American Photorealism, Reynolds House Museum of American Art, USA (2022).
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