Filled with images of birds, flowers, water and other natural objects, Mr. Goldberg’s intricate designs allow him, he says, “to bring out something that nothing else could. There’s intimacy, there’s love. Back in the postmodern day, it wasn’t popular to be sincere or to paint something that could be good for us. That has always been my intention—to make quiet, intimate paintings.”
Second Tapestry, 2015, by Glenn Goldberg. Acrylic, gesso, ink and pencil on canvas, 48 x 36 inches (121.9 x 91.4 cm). JPMorgan Chase Art Collection. © Glenn Goldberg, courtesy of the artist.
Paintings that are built out
Born 1953 in the Bronx, New York, Mr. Goldberg grew up not with art but with music. “Art was essentially nonexistent in my household, but music was actually huge.” His father introduced him to such jazz greats as Ella Fitzgerald, Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman and Sara Vaughan.
To this early jazz influence, Mr. Goldberg received training in contemporary art that emphasized structure. “I was trained in terms of the Bauhaus idea that you have to build a painting. So I am interested in this combination of structure and improvisation.”
Mr. Goldberg’s paintings are literally “built out.” Working at a table in his studio in Brooklyn, New York, he creates his paintings from back to front. “They are simply additive, like life itself. Just as we move through our lives, things might get quieted—we might forget or have resolved certain things,” he says. “They’re akin to how life moves forward.”
A hybrid of representative and abstract forms, Mr. Goldberg’s artwork often starts with a pattern reminiscent of textiles. He will then fill in an area or little compartment with an image that may be overt or “have some kind of implication, but we couldn’t be sure what they are.”
And he will repeat a pattern, exploring its variations. “It feels quite natural to do another one or to do a different one, and the questions are always, ‘What’s possible? What could I do?’”
There, 2012, by Glenn Goldberg. Oil on canvas, 40 x 72 inches (101.6 x 182.9 cm). JPMorgan Chase Art Collection. © Glenn Goldberg, courtesy of the artist.
The greatest gift
Mr. Goldberg, who studied at the New York Studio School and received his M.F.A. from Queens College, says he was very fortunate to have had great teachers. One in particular gave him a message that meant a great deal to him and that he, in turn, hopes to pass along to the young artists he teaches: “You’re doing fine. Keep going.”
“I always remember that,” he says. “That she thought I could be an artist, in a true deeper sense of what that entails.”
Mr. Goldberg has taught for nearly 30 years, working at times with underprivileged students. To him, the greatest gift he can give is to pass on the encouragement he received.
“Art is always up for discourse about what’s better, worse—it’s never something that can be proven. I think it’s natural for a young artist to be a little daunted by the immeasurability of it, so I think we do need to fortify each other all the way through. There are days where one might question this at its core. When you’re young, it’s an enormous thing to think you want to take it on.”
Closer to silence
Over the years, Mr. Goldberg’s art has reflected an exploration of color, particularly the tension between color’s vibrancy and his wanting it to “be quiet at the same time.”
“Color is very forceful. It has a strong disposition. I just got to a point where I wanted to remove it and focus on something quieter,” he says of a series of grey paintings he recently created. “I’m back into color again, but I’d like to think the grey paintings have made my work more intimate and a bit quieter. I’m always wanting them to live closer to silence than volume. It’s important to me.”
Mr. Goldberg says he hopes his art “can live without words—that to be around it could be some form of a respite or quietness; a positive experience, but not void of intellect and sophistication. It’s somewhat idealistic, but I love idealism because it brings us toward something that’s better.”
Glenn Goldberg has received grants from the Edward Albee Foundation, the Guggenheim Fellowship, and the National Endowment for the Arts. His work is held in numerous collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Academy of Arts and Letters, the Brooklyn Museum of Art, the National Gallery of Art and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, as well as in the JPMorgan Chase Art Collection.
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