David Goldes' (b. 1947; New York) science-informed, multimedia practice is invested in the careful observation and simple manipulation of basic physical elements, such as water, electricity, air currents, wind, and breath. Fascinated by the flow of energy that powers all these phenomena, Goldes builds, draws, and photographs diagrams of the physical and chemical principles that rule the natural world. Balls fall, bounce in symmetrical arcs, roll and achieve stasis. Gas from a Bunsen burner can be carefully ignited to form a broken flame. Volatile liquids chemically combine and react to form particles in the air that we see as smoke. Science demonstrations, if materials are carefully treated, usually produce the expected results. Goldes uses his artistic practice to test these foundations of scientific truth, especially as political and social realities seem to shift underfoot.
The artist's photographs are based on 19th-century drawings of electrical experiments performed by pioneering scientists such as Humphry Davy and Michael Faraday. Goldes attempts to verify and recreate these scientists' early experiments, transforming their utilitarian purposes into aesthetic ideals. The artist's drawings toy with electricity as a material, causing it to behave in unexpected ways by utilizing the conductive properties of graphite. High-voltage currents are applied to drawings made with graphite on paper, producing a scorched record of the original traces and minimal forms. The artist photographs the moment each drawing is electrified, offering the photograph as a record of the experiment, and the charred drawing as the embodied proof of the science itself. Goldes states, "I need to see phenomenon and discover in the process, what remains mysterious and full of wonder. That gap between mental explanation and subjective experience is what I desire to find. I can take nothing on faith."
The artist's photographs are included in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Art Institute of Chicago; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; and the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Paris, among others. Goldes received an MFA in Photography from the Visual Studies Workshop at SUNY Buffalo, an MA in Molecular Genetics from Harvard University and a BA in Biology and Chemistry from SUNY Buffalo. He is a Guggenheim Fellow and a recipient of grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Bush and McKnight Foundations. Goldes currently lives and works in Minneapolis.