Goldin's personal life is the raw material of her art, and this picture intimately evokes the pathos of her own passionate romance. The artist lies on a bed gazing at her lover, Brian, with a mixture of longing and resignation as he turns away from her. A soft yellow light bathes the scene, suggestive of the rays of a setting sun and a waning relationship.
Nan and Brian in Bed, New York City is included in Goldin's influential work The Ballad of Sexual Dependency, a sequence of more than seven hundred color slides of Goldin’s friends and family, accompanied by a sound track. The forty-five-minute slide show, which borrows its title from a song in The Threepenny Opera by Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht, presents an intimate, visceral image of a fringe community in downtown New York in the 1980s. Goldin has described The Ballad as "the diary I let people read"; the informal, snapshot style of her photographs lends their private dramas a powerful sense of immediacy. While the work captures the shared experience of a generation ravaged by drug excesses and AIDS, its central, driving theme is the intensity—the highs and the lows—of amorous relationships.
Publication excerpt from The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights since 1980, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2007, p. 38.