Lenore D. Miller
Director, University Art Galleries and Chief Curator
Luther W. Brady Art Gallery, The George Washington University
The leap year date of February 29 comes around every four years. It is distinctive and memorable to open our exhibition on that date because Carol Brown Goldberg, a prolific artist who is fascinated by time and space says, “I think ultimately an artist dives into a work with a lot of faith; plowing down a path with focus and intensity, with a pinpoint focus on the ‘Moment,’ and a conscious abandonment of historical references.” Although many artists inspire her, particularly the paintings of Kandinsky, Goldberg is an avid reader who enjoys philosophy and physics. Music surrounds her while she works. These original mixed media works on paper draw attention to the many facets of inquiry pursued by the artist.
These are not preliminary drawings, but are their own complex entities in which the arcs and conjoined vortices may represent time and space and the cosmos. The drawings are portable and allow the artist to work anywhere on an intimate scale. Done on handmade paper, they take advantage of the color and texture of such papers. In retrospect Goldberg sees affinities to drawings done in the 1970’s and never exhibited-earlier ink drawings with dots that describe topography, such as floating islands. They may also be visually related to hours spent drawing in the Asian collections of the Freer and Sackler Galleries.
Assemblage, the art of combining disparate materials in three-dimensional forms, is the sculptural vocabulary that Goldberg presents. From found household objects, blocks, and assorted electrical devices, the artist builds up forms, which are later cast into patinated bronze sculptures. These small to medium sized cast bronzes are presented in groupings. Such “crowds” of small bronzes, evoke personal interactions and mirror individual and human quirky traits. As an installation with a group photograph, they present an historical and personal dialogue. The sculptures have also been produced on a monumental scale for appropriate display in public spaces, where they become engaged with the landscape.
In the work of Goldberg, colorful drawings suggest lyrical undersea worlds or floating amoeba. The sculpture, on the other hand, suggests solid citizens rooted in our daily experience.
By Christopher Addison
The drawings of Carol Brown Goldberg, the constant output of a frenetic imagination, seem themselves a force of nature, suggesting the sinuous meanders of watercourses organized by the considerable will and discipline of this thoughtful artist. Most impressive is the nearly daily outpouring of visual ideas and the constant exploration and use of new templates, new surfaces. Consciously imposed systems of design are balanced by a questing, intuitive fluidity. Each drawing dances convincingly between these poles of control and freedom lending the drawings both authority and balance. In fact, there is a striking, if unintended, congruity to Labanotation, the graphic representation of dance. Indeed, many of these drawing seem to literally move across the paper.
Ranging from implied landscapes and still lives to map-like forms to purely invented cosmologies, these drawings both imply and convey three dimensional realities. On the one hand one sees, in the artist’s work, the dul-tson-kyil-khor, Tibetan sand painting Mandalas, meditative, highly skilled renderings or, perhaps, the Mandelbrot set fractals which mimic forms often found in nature: in ocean waves, mountains, crystals, snowflakes or river networks. In other words, the disciplined, conscious and trained manipulation of materials. On the other hand, the expressive, playful quality and the sheer volume of almost daily drawings, demonstrates a spiritual connection to the artist’s inner self. The result is a staggering array of style, color, complexity and atmosphere.
As in fractal images, similar patterns recur in these drawings in various scales. In mathematics this is described as self-similarity and, although this has a mechanical connotation, these drawings are anything but mechanical. Their intuitive presence is a tribute to an artist whose questing mind, generous nature and dedication to her art has been a constant over a lifetime spent making art. In Islamic Art or in Tibetan Mandalas, for instance, form trumps individual expression. However, in Ms. Goldberg’s case this formula is reversed, form is dominated by expression. As a result, the artist creates highly personal iterations from a well of ideas both intellectual and personal. Her drawings bring to mind the very individuated patterned images of such artists as Alfred Jensen, Alma Thomas or Sonia Delaunay.
Conversations with the artist bring to mind the way Willem de Kooning is described by Annalyn Swan and Mark Stevens in their book, “de Kooning: An American Master”, “..de Kooning drew obsessively, defining and redefining his ideas through his hand, as he would throughout his life. For de Kooning, drawing was almost as necessary as breathing. It was a way to stay in touch with the world: as the charcoal or pencil moved across the paper, it released some of his nervous energy.” Drawing as a way of connecting to the multiple stimuli from a life open to many sources and inspirations, is an excellent way to approach the wealth of drawings by Carol Brown Goldberg. In the manner of de Kooning, she allows an obsession to become a vital artistic voice.
Morphing with the artist’s mood and inspiration from bold to delicate, the drawings appear often in series, welcome variations on a theme, the hand of the artist so evident in the line. As Helen Frankenthaler has said, “One really beautiful wrist motion, that is synchronised with your head and heart, and you have it. It looks as if it were born in a minute.”