Joseph Goto was one of the most forceful and original artists in 20th century Chicago. An enormous talent and a voluble personality, Goto was born in Hawaii, where he learned to weld while working for the military, but he moved to Chicago to follow his brother, Byron Goto, who had studied at the School of the Art Institute. Very early in his career, Joseph was singled out by curator Alfred Barr, who bought the 1951 sculpture “Organic Form I,” a 12-foot tall piece, for the permanent collection of MoMA, and throughout his first decade as an artist Goto’s welded steel sculpture was shown in major national and international shows, including a 1963 exhibit in Battersea Park, in London, where his first monumental work sat alongside large pieces by Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth. Among Goto’s many admirers and collectors was Frank Lloyd Wright, who routinely made special nooks in his buildings especially for Goto’s sculptures.
Goto’s work has appeared singularly in various surveys of Chicago art, including the MCA’s ART IN CHICAGO 1945-1995, but it has not been the subject of a solo Chicago exhibition since the artist’s last show at Allan Frumkin Gallery in 1962. Corbett vs. Dempsey’s survey includes welded steel works from the first half of the 1950s, when he was making vertical totemic abstractions and angular animal figures with a nod to Wifredo Lam, as well as a group of Goto’s classic horizontal, arabesque, “creeping” pieces from the mid-1950s. From the early 1960s, when Goto began teaching at Rhode Island School of Design, a selection of the chunky, massively heavy floor sculptures for which he was also acclaimed will be on view. To augment the steelworks, the exhibit includes several of Goto’s early paintings – which he stopped making due to an allergy to turpentine – and a few of his incisive, extremely rare early lithographs.