Friday, February 27, 2009

ArtsBuzz: Lake Worth gallery features major American painter

Upward Lift (1985, 60-by-90-inch oil and acrylic on canvas),
by Robert Goodnough. (Photo by Katie Deits)

By Katie Deits

Robert Goodnough may not be a household name, but the American painter was working in New York when Abstract Expressionism and color-field painting exploded onto the scene.

He was considered important enough in the art world back in January 1960 to make the cover of ArtNews, but more evidence of his stature can be found in the museums that hold his work: The Metropolitan Museum, the Whitney Museum of American Art, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and the Museum of Modern Art.

Goodnough paintings are also in the collections of the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach and the Boca Raton Museum of Art. “He is a really important American painter,” said Wendy M. Blazier, senior curator at the Boca Museum. “We have a number of his works -- five major paintings and a couple of graphics.”

A significant collection of his paintings now is on exhibit through March 27 at the Margot Stein Gallery in Lake Worth.

Abstraction X (1981, 68-by-68-inch oil and acrylic on canvas)
(Photo by Katie Deits)

“He has an intellectual side to him and is a brilliant colorist,” said gallery owner Margot Stein. “He is a fairly prolific painter. I first dealt with some of his paintings 20 years ago, but I was prompted to visit him in his studio when, two years ago, someone brought one of his paintings to my gallery.”

Stein has 16 Goodnough paintings in her gallery, ranging in price from $10,000 to $45,000.

Robert Goodnough (b. 1917).

Goodnough, who is 91, lives with his wife Miko in upstate New York and still is painting. Born in Cortland, N.Y., he settled in Manhattan after service during World War II. There, he studied with Hans Hofmann and Walter Long and earned a degree in art education from New York University.

He was a compatriot of the first and second generation of Abstract Expressionists, and in addition to creating and exhibiting his art, supported himself by teaching and writing articles for art magazines.

“Coming from that period – the mid-20th century – he knew all the greats,” Blazier said. “He’s a great connection. (In his paintings) from the ‘70s and ‘80s, when you get up close, you see some of the very intentional masking, rich overlapping of paint, in which he masked out areas and then painted others; (it’s) a density that he builds up, yet it is unprimed canvas, so it floats.

“There is a physicality of the paint that comes out of the Abstract Expressionists, but you have these shards that are clustered, and that gives a feeling of weightlessness,” she said.

Boat (1963, 20-inch oil on canvas)
(Photo by Katie Deits)

The Boca Museum has a large, 5-foot-by-9-foot Goodnough called Angular Development, painted in 1985, in its second-floor permanent collection.

“It has shard-like shapes -- he liked them to be called shapes and not forms, as they are flat, and ‘forms’ imply a three-dimensional quality," Blazier said. "It’s a combination of the loose, gestural drip-paintings of the Abstract Expressionists and more overlapping angular shapes that is more tight and constructed.”

Brianna Anderson, assistant curator of American art at the Norton, said the museum has four Goodnoughs: The paintings Color on Pale Gray (1974) and Pale Green on Pale Green (1973), along with a print and a silkscreen.

Bombed Boat (1966, 30-by-56-inch oil on canvas)
(Photo by Katie Deits)

It’s easy to see Goodnough’s knowledge of art history in his earlier paintings such as Bombed Boat (1966), which seems to reference Picasso’s Guernica. At the time Goodnough painted the work, the Vietnam War was raging, and just as in Picasso’s Spanish Civil War canvas, Bombed Boat depicts a hand shooting up in the air. His abstracted interpretation of a bomb and its destructive havoc is emotional and intense.

Goodnough’s influence can be seen in the work of a painter such as Julie Mehretu, and Stein said there has been talk of a museum retrospective of his work.

Robert Goodnough: Paintings 1963-2007 will be on exhibit through March 27 at the Margot Stein Gallery, 512 Lucerne Ave., Lake Worth. For more information, visit, or call (561) 582-5770.

At right, Margot Stein, with Julie Williams,
assistant director of the Margot Stein Gallery.
(Photo by Katie Deits)

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