South Street Gallery is a landmark building, a former horse-drawn firehouse in the downtown area of Greenport. In contrast to the historic building, paintings currently on view there by Greenport-based artist Colin Goldberg are strikingly contemporary.
His show, North Fork Modernism: Paintings by Colin Goldberg is open for one more weekend, through May 26.
In it, “Kodoku” (2014) is from a new series of works made of acrylic, pigment and resin on birch panels. A triptych, the vertical lines of negative space break up each wood panel, creating a moment of pause in the fast-paced lateral composition. The resin adds a smooth and polished surface to the work, while abstract black lines merge to form inadvertent anthropomorphic creatures that, once noticed, instantly disappear back into abstraction. Several similar works in the exhibition integrate richly saturated hues, forceful-yet-intricate lines and the grain of wood or crosshatching of linen in some instances.
Back at his Greenport studio, where he lives with his pregnant wife Donna, Goldberg spoke about abstraction, current projects and what’s been happening lately with his work. “I never set out to portray anything specific,” Goldberg explained, pointing to three works hanging above his computer, similar to those on view at South Street Gallery, noting that only later did he notice forms that resemble a plane, flower or tentacles.
Goldberg, born in 1971 in the Bronx to parents of Japanese and Jewish ancestry, earned a Bachelor of Arts in Studio Art from Binghamton University in 1994 and went on to get his MFA in Computer Art at Bowling Green State University, Ohio, in 2008. His style combines classic drawing and painting techniques with digital printing and computer graphics. “A constant struggle for me is that there are so many directions I want to go in,” he says.
Goldberg’s early work was largely surrealist, with gestalt figures. One of his undergrad professors, Second Generation New York School Abstract Expressionist Angelo Ippolito, spoke a lot about his art being “about paint”—that the viewer could bring what they wanted to it. At the time, Goldberg was not doing abstract work but began experimenting more with it. In the late ’90s he started working on a tablet, using Adobe Illustrator to make his “Metagraphs,” a series of abstract digital drawings.
Goldberg produced a dozen of these works as singular editions on canvas, which are on view at the Southampton Youth Services Rec Center’s running track. “There’s an irony in it—things that are digital are infinitely reproducible.” Nevertheless, Goldberg often destroys his files after printing.
Present in many of his works, especially his “Shodo” series, are brushstrokes that strongly resemble calligraphy. Never attempting to make actual characters, Goldberg was more interested in the gesture and the materials used. His mother recalls watching her mother (who taught calligraphy in Hawaii after moving there from Japan) at the kitchen table, making gestural marks and crumpling them up, one after the next. “I tried to bring that sensibility to it, to keep going,” Goldberg said of the initial stages of his process. He brings the hand-drawn marks in as a layer and is then able to compose an overprint on the computer.
Though his process varies, Goldberg often starts with a painting, photographs it, brings it into the computer and then prints in back onto the painting. His works from a series he calls “Photoconstructs” bring the photographic image in, layered over a painting. Many of the images are scenes of Peconic Bay, East Marion and Southampton–all part of Goldberg’s East End roots. Other times he starts with the print itself and then adds layers upon layers. “The tricky part is to know when to stop.”
He’s been able to expand as an artist, quite literally, producing larger-scale works, via his large format printer. He was able to purchase it with recent grants from the Pollock-Krasner Foundation and from the New York State Council on the Arts. Leaning against his print racks is a new piece he’s working on—a self-portrait he’s doing for a project called “The Irrational Portrait Gallery,” organized by Fresh Art (an artist collective out of Port Jefferson) and photographer Rick Wenner; it will include self-portraits by 20 different Long Island-based artists.
Goldberg’s work is on view at the South Street Gallery, 18 South Street, Greenport (thesouthstreetgallery.com), Guild Hall (guildhall.org), East End Arts Council (eastendarts.org), and at colingoldberg.com.