Neil Goodman

Struve Gallery

The 25 small bronze sculptures Neil Goodman made while summering in Washington State in 1989, entitled “The Bellingham Series,” are characterized by a modest sylvan quality—a sense of desire indulged, and of an artist extending and luxuriously extrapolating a concept. Though these sculptures provide a bit of respite from Good-man’s characteristically complex and rather imposing multileveled bronze ensembles, it would be misleading to view them simply as a summer project—a break from the rigors of his usual effort. This series reflects a sweet liberty within its open parameters, which produced results every bit as compelling as his more “substantial” efforts.

In Bellingham, Goodman became intrigued by the variety and shapes of tools and implements associated with the sea, and he gave each work in this series (all works 1990) a title with a nautical reference. None of these miniassemblages incorporated actual tools or casts made from them directly; rather, Goodman made wax variants of these items, reinventing them in the process, and compiling a corpus of models he would later recombine and cast in bronze. Assuming formal properties that superseded their original look and function, the objects became part of a new and personal iconography.

It is in Goodman’s sensitive combinations of elements that his skill is revealed. Each of these refined and compelling pictorial solutions suggest a Chardin still life. Goodman pushes combinations of arcane tools, bits of flotsam, and occasional organic forms to the edge of chaos, only to rescue them—to discover their maximum potential for visual stimulation. Asymmetry is the key to this sculpture of risk. Walking a charged line between collapse and control, a work entitled Sail seems on the verge of disintegrating into a meaningless array of angles and edges. Prop is more ordered, with its strong verticals retaining a sense of structure. As in the Cubism of a Juan Gris or a Georges Braque, the fragmentation that is hinted at is never permitted to occur. Goodman’s heavenly strewing, his determined tossing of elements into unexpected art relationships, achieves the special status of appearing inevitable.

James Yood