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THE ART GALLERIES

Santa Monica

October 10, 1986|SUZANNE MUCHNIC

The James Corcoran Gallery has opened an airy new showcase with a show of Joe Goode's recent paintings. It's the sort of exhibition that causes uninitiated visitors to mutter, "These aren't pictures; there's nothing in them" and more savvy ones to marvel at how much is in them.

Though the 30 or so works are based on trees, the smaller oils on linen seem more concerned with wind or atmosphere. The tree forms are fragile, wavering spires or smokelike funnels that grow from the bottom of each panel and soon dissipate into ethereal greenness. If the colors are inspired by foliage, they embrace a full gamut of variations: greens verging on liquid blue or acid yellow, greens so darkly mysterious that they look like charcoal. Dank, cool and richly varied in mood, these works seem as romantically evocative as Goode's fiery orange skies of a few years ago.

Something different is going on in the back gallery where Goode shows big, horizontal panels in which a strip of wood resembling a section of tree trunk bisects green background. The reddish wood grain is not a painted facsimile but exposed redwood veneer that strikes a peculiar contrast with the painted area surrounding it. These paintings don't really work; they seem overblown and clumsy. But they do set up an interesting tension between real objects and painted illusions. That's a familiar edge for Goode who has set milk bottles in front of abstract paintings and "vandalized" gorgeous painted blue skies by tearing holes in them.

It's probably safe to say that Goode isn't altogether satisfied with the beautiful romance he's been having with nature. In this work he seems to have gotten tough again. He can do better than these rough, cumbersome paintings, but his line of questioning is refreshing. (James Corcoran Gallery, 1327 5th St., to Oct. 22.)

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