LOS ANGELES — Glenn Goldberg seizes worn-out clichés that would seem unable to support weight and uses them to unexpectedly launch himself into painting.
I met Glenn Goldberg in 2005 when I was curating an exhibition about the history of the New York Studio School. Goldberg’s tools-in-trade are elemental: dots, patterns, and symbolic, iconic representations of birds, trees, flowers. They couldn’t be more different from the traditions of the Studio School and Queens College, where he studied in the late 1970s, and where the predominant way of working involved a heroic wrestling with form. Also, the athletic and Bronx-raised Goldberg doesn’t necessarily look or sound like someone we expect to be making the paintings he does.
The large paintings in Glenn Goldberg’s recent exhibition are part of a series collectively titled Elixir. They are half as tall as they are wide. “Eighth Elixir” (2011) is less than four feet tall and over seven feet wide, but most are slightly less than three feet high and five feet wide. Done in acrylic and ink on pale gray, gessoed grounds, the paintings have an undulating visual hum to them — think Philip Glass and Terry Riley —which is both soothing and disconcerting. This is because Goldberg effectively meshes two palettes on a gray ground — one is black and white, while the other consists of muted, often transparent colors ranging from near primaries to turquoise and violet.
I met Simon Gouverneur in the late 1980s, when I gave a lecture at the Maryland Institute College of Art. Something that I talked about that afternoon prompted him to introduce himself — I am guessing it was Wifredo Lam. We sat in a drab conference room. For the rest of the afternoon, before I caught a train back to New York, he and I wandered through dangerous territory, which was the problematic relationship between art and race. He was happy to speak to someone who was sympathetic to his quarrel with multiculturalism, and its ideas of essentialism and who shared his interest in visionary art and painters such as Piet Mondrian and Alfred Jensen.