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July 1st, 2003

Artist: Adrienne Goldberg

by SoHo Journal Staff

The paintings of Adrienne Goldberg open onto a territory of realism which is paradoxically welcoming while it remains slightly unsettling. Her unique approach employs a technique that is evinced by hazy areas of thinly washed color fulfilling the satisfied geography of those forms which most adequately, and without fanfare, describe the exact opportunity that they are summoned to report. No pressure is applied as they are shimmed, diligently, into a cohesive and expansive whole.

She gives us a scenario that should be received effortlessly: however there is a pull, as relentless as it is faint, which tethers the viewer to the fact of the painting’s own self-knowing insistence. The entire vision is complete, and although the visual voice of these pictures seems to whisper, or softly hum, there is an anchor holding each picture fast. Her paintings are held taut in our minds, where they are planted, deeply hooked and permanent. They appear as clouds, but they are at once solid, and, strangely, even edifying. It is so odd that these familiar enough poses, painted with wisps and almost floating above the canvas should simultaneously stand iconic and unshakeable.

Goldberg, a student of master portraitist Sydney Dickinson, has carefully dislodged from her vocabulary all of the bravado, and those territorial claiming marks, (like the impasto slashes of the thick tube color), so identifiable with a certain form of pedestrian, although recognizably acceptable, studio activity. In quiet defiance of the traditional art school puberty rites she has declared that the malleability of oil paint, (which invites the practice of supporting an ongoing self-doubt, followed by bitter eradication and a nervous reconstruction), is antithetical to her belief in the true nature of the painting’s actual function. That the smeary residue of the befuddlement, posing as a tortured wisdom, be paraded out as the final content of the painting, and that the painting then be willed into an “arena” of “combat”, is an easy and faddish piece of received information, in which she refuses to indulge.

Quite on purpose, Goldberg’s voice is as clear as spring water and as oddly nutritious as “manna”. We are fixated and we don’t know why. We are unprepared for, and almost unaware of, the little adjustment that we have to make, reflexively, in front of her work. So now this quiet presentation, as her paintings seem to be, makes us lean over, and crouch down, so we can hear better. Listening to her paintings, we are rewarded with a louder, imperative communication, which feels wholesome, meaningful and timeless.

Adrienne Goldberg believes that a painting is a place where the perceiver can commune, uninterrupted by the automatic congratulations that the viewer can accord himself on recognizing a tired aesthetic sign post. Her paintings courageously by-pass any directive to call for those old visual chestnuts, those most requested tunes. Instead they plunge the viewer into a territory which has been relatively untrammeled for the last half century. It is a land of belief. Where the viewer joins the painter in a world of magic transformation. Where the world which is presented is a real world ?ɬ and its armature is the agreed upon contract ?ɬ that what is being seen is real. Because the story is real ?ɬ the story is believed ?ɬ imperceptively, the story has all the trappings of faith.

The viewer doesn’t have to know the story. Maybe even Adrienne Goldberg doesn’t remember the story. But the paintings, the paintings hold their history, and they hold the sincerity of their narrative close to their soul. Giotto, Massacio and Piero, with washes of watercolor on plaster, stretching out to the perimeter of their contours, with each shape spliced seamlessly to the next shape, gave us a pronounced and austere world, where care, protection and love jostled with, and was triumphant over fear. And mindful of those masters, the great fresco painters of the early Renaissance, whose work spoke with precision, about responses as intangible as awe, Goldberg’s simple snapshot derived paintings feel like they will pulse forever, emitting their tender resolve, from that conversely intimate, floral scented enormity, which her protagonists inhabit. She gives us successful and captivating works. Insecurely frail and fiercely courageous. Adrienne Goldberg’s neatly ordered rectangular universes, which hang, obediently, on our walls, can over time, abrade and enter into the very muscle of our hearts.

Filed Under: Articles | Arts & Leisure | New York

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