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THE ART GALLERIES

Venice

March 20, 1987|COLIN GARDNER

These are difficult times for Abstract Expressionists. In this post-"painting-is-dead" era, when the only critical justification for applying paint to canvas appears to be tied firmly to conceptual issues such as appropriation and simulation, surviving members of the New York School often appear as stubborn anachronisms, tied to a long-dead era of high Modernism. As a result, painters like Michael Goldberg are prime targets for post-modernists who like to dismantle anything that smacks of painterly rhetoric and "heroic" individualism.

A pupil of Hans Hofmann, Goldberg was heavily influenced by Pollock, De Kooning and Gorky; his large, high-energy canvases fuse lyrical line and broad, muscular brush strokes fuse in kinetic outpourings of emotive gesture. Like his works of the 1950s, Goldberg's latest paintings allude to both landscape and architectural elements, combining oil and pastel in a frontal assault of multilayered impasto, rapidly executed marks and surface scumbling. Yet for all their loose brushwork and busy calligraphies, the works are surprisingly taut and structured, using suggested horizon lines as simple parameters for abstracted painterly "vistas."

While Goldberg might appear to deliver the extrovert, Abstract Expressionist "goods," historical distance has tended to redefine the entire nature of the genre. Today, the works act less as manifestations of the cathartic ego than passive markers of the viewer's ideology. For true believers, Goldberg might help to revive the "truth" of painterly transcendence. For skeptics, he is just one more in a long line of irrelevant throwbacks, as obsolete as the existentialism which spawned the movement in the first place. (L.A. Louver, 77 Market St., to April 11.)

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