Los Angeles

Michael Goldberg

Manny Silverman Gallery

Consisting wholly of decisive starts and sudden stops—of thick strokes of paint and their clear-cut interruption—Michael Goldberg’s newest paintings simultaneously punch themselves out as bold, graphic patterns and unravel with a reckless embrace of chaos’ inevitability. His insistently dishevelled abstractions demonstrate that a resolutely formal approach to painting in no way limits the visual energy an image is able to generate. The 69-year-old, second-generation Abstract Expressionist’s latest body of work continues Golberg’s life-long exploration of the viability of line, color, surface, and shape, yet elicits responses at odds with the harmony and resolve we have come to expect from Formalist abstraction.

Goldberg’s paintings share more than a passing resemblance to collage. Like that art, in which discordant fragments and unrelated elements are held together in ad-hoc constellations fraught with tension and inconsistency, his abstractions create the impression that they are made up of parts that never really come together to constitute a whole. Deliberately haphazard, his crisp arrangements of stripes and segments resemble discarded remnants of fabric. They look like clippings and ends that have fallen to the floor, been swept into bright piles, and left there because their irregular shapes and clashing colors ensure their uselessness. His large paintings balance this almost explosive sense of randomness and disjuncture against one of allover evenness and deft control. The individual elements in each of his pieces seem too restless to settle onto the picture plane though they constitute essential components of carefully built-up compositions. In no sense unfinished, his paintings split the difference between ongoing improvisation and some sort of closure. Neither hermetically resolved nor incomplete, they occupy the charged middle ground between necessity and play.

In Goldberg’s best paintings, loud colors, vibrant stripes, and dynamic lines have the presence of both structural necessities and fleeting apparitions. Like shooting stars or flashing fireworks, they momentarily jump out of their surroundings to grab your eyeballs with compelling force, then dissolve back into the geometric architecture out of which they burst. Often turbulent and sometimes out of control, their every movement is orchestrated by Goldberg’s remarkably fresh formalism. His latest paintings are some of the liveliest and most engaging of his generation. Sheer visual energy is the only structural cement that holds them together. Animate patterns that suggest flowerlike starbursts, decorative banners, naval flags, colorful sails, and striped swathes of fabric overlap and abut one another in these often rambunctious images. These intentionally frivolous components are anchored by a painterly weight, and fixed in their positions by competing pictorial forces. Goldberg’s capacity to hold them together as they seem to fly apart gives his often jubilant paintings an up-to-the-minute vitality that is always a pleasure to see.

David Pagel