Solo Exhibition Series: Neil Goodman in the Park
June 28, 2010 – October 31, 2011
(The essay below was written for the exhibition and has been modified to reflect the fact that the presentation is past)
If you thought you were familiar with Neil Goodman’s large scale sculpture, then "Neil Goodman in the Park" proved to be a revelation. Goodman’s work is often associated with the gritty industrial surroundings that he views on his daily trip to work – the iron and steel factories and refineries of northwest Indiana. It has been seen in galleries with strong architectural settings where its presence is signaled by a quiet assertiveness.
The installation at the Nathan Manilow Sculpture Park provided the viewer with an opportunity to re-assess the artist’s hand. Goodman placed the work in an open, grassy glade interspersed with trees and flanked by shrubs near the university’s east entrance. In this setting, contrasting with the riotous backdrop of the hedgerow, the sculptures revealed the artist’s attention to detail and his unerring sense of original, yet quirkily comfortable, composition.
But first you had to find them. Goodman generally sculpts with a refined line, not mass. Beautifully controlled, modulated, and articulated line. The artist’s energetic line, matte black and cast in fiberglass, might recall sumi e brushstrokes, almost calligraphic in their articulation of form against the lush green surroundings. Four of the five pieces are bravura displays of what the artist does best: creating sculptural presence from empty space. Never an outline; these linear pieces are forms consumed with defining space, and, more particularly, volume. And what volume!
As you approached the open side of "Wind," the artwork beckoned you forward and fairly begged you to step through its open “door.” But the visitor hesitated as they stood between the sculpture’s “leaves.” Once you’d entered this area, the edges of the sculpture disappeared from your peripheral vision. You were forced to crane your neck to follow the line and in this process survey the space – the volume – in which you stood. Of course, this piece, like several others in the group, worked as a framing device as well, providing a focus for our gaze as we surveyed the entire installation.
"Ray" and "Alcance" (translated from Spanish, Alance means Reach) are the two most clearly related works. "Ray" appears pyramidal (and, indeed, it might be instructive to compare it to Richard Hunt’s "Outgrown Pyramid II," which was sited not more that 30 yards away), but it is missing a third “foot” which would make it so. Goodman casually referred to the piece as ‘jaws’ and the gaping opening could be a stand-in for a toothless Great White’s grin. Unlike "Wind," the scale of Ray discouraged entry; the space is uncomfortably angular and the apex of the vertical section stands about head-high on an adult. Again, the artist orchestrated our response to implied volume.
"Alcance is different altogether." It is significantly larger and its legs, catching the light on their softly curved flanks, seem to pulse. Modulated edges hint at interior movement of water or, perhaps, the growth pattern of some sort of stalk. Where "Ray" is all about open angles, "Alcance" is all about closing, as if the piece were about to snap shut if we ventured too close or too far inside. Its cantilevered, acute triangles seemed to push the limits of self support – seem to reach – to the point of uncomfortableness.
In the context of the aforementioned works, "Ballast" was almost the anti-Goodman work. Visually heavy, massed, and repeating, the piece made formal reference to Constantin Brancusi’s "Endless Column" without quoting it. With "Ballast," the artist pushed himself, setting and reaching the goal of creating a work which sucked the viewer’s attention into its solidity, into the black, articulated mass of the work, refusing to trade on the ethereal openness of his other pieces in the exhibition. "Ballast" provided an excellent opportunity to examine Goodman’s surface treatment. We could see gentle scoring and scumbling of the original, wax surface that had been cast in fiberglass. This activates the matte black forms and reveals the hand of the artist.
Often, guileless simplicity can provide complex encounters. Take an ‘X’. Find a way to articulate it in 3-dimensional space. Knock it off balance. The open/closed form of "Four Corners" built on a simple theme creating movement and surprise as you examined the many interrelationships of form that occurred as planes and lines overlapped, intersected, and rearranged themselves with one-another.
Walking among these works, the visitor quickly recognized an inviting presence in the consistently original, yet comfortable, forms Neil Goodman presented. In this setting, visitors began or renewed their acquaintance with this artist’s sculpture and enjoyed the counterpoint of natural form which surrounded it. Experiencing "Neil Goodman in the Park" presented viewers with an opportunity unavailable within the confines of a gallery: the time and chance to search for and find these almost invisible artworks within the landscape. With his art, Neil Goodman asks us to move inside the work, to physically become part of his vision. We are happy to do so.
Checklist of the exhibition
127 x 79 x 198
36 x 175 x 36
89 x 110 x 74
19 x 149 x 84
94 x 205 x 109
All works cast fiberglass. All works were made in 2004.
Born: 1953, Hammond, IN
Tyler School of Art, Temple University, (1977-1979) M.F.A. Sculpture and Ceramics, Philadelphia, PA
Kansas City Art Institute, (1977) Post Graduate Studies in Sculpture, Kansas City, MO
Indiana University, (1971-76) B.A. Fine Arts, Religious Studies, Bloomington, IN
Neil Goodman has exhibited his work both nationally and internationally, and has had numerous one-person exhibitions throughout the country. His sculpture has been commissioned and collected by museums, corporations, convention centers, parks, synagogues, universities, and private collectors. Goodman’s sculpture was included in the 1995 Museum of Contemporary Art’s opening exhibition entitled the “History of Chicago Art 1945-1995.” His work has been written about and reviewed in numerous catalogs and periodicals including Art Forum, Art in America, Art News and Sculpture Magazine.
Neil Goodman lives in Chicago. He is currently represented by Perimeter Gallery.