Later this month, Pine Hill-based artist Brenda Goodman will be heading down to New York City’s influential Chelsea art district for a solo show at the prestigious Sikkema Jenkins Gallery she’s had her heart set on showing in for years now.
Goodman is a seriously ambitious, and truly serious painter, now in her seventies, who rose up out of Detroit in the 1960s and 1970s, where she followed studies at the College of Creative Studies, and was considered a key component of the Cass Corridor movement of artists that brought international attention to a bohemian cluster based around Wayne State University, and continued to a more recent flourishing of music that included the emergence of the White Stripes. Within a short span of time, the young painter was showing at the Motor City’s renowned Gertrude Kasle Gallery alongside Philip Guston and Cy Twombly, winning awards from the Detroit Museum of Art, and being highlighted as one of the Midwest city’s great new creative lights.
After moving to New York City in 1976, a natural for ambitious artists then as now, Goodman’s work was included in the 1979 Whitney Biennial and she soon was being represented in key SoHo galleries of the day. She became known as a painter’s painter, recognized for using paint in inventive ways, and for utilizing traditional and unorthodox tools and methods in her pursuit of intensely personal issues expressed in abstract ways free of the studied male mannerisms of the previous generation’s strutting Abstract Expressionists, or her own day’s minimalists, Pop and Op artists, and snide conceptualists. She taught; she survived.
Eventually, the hard drive of the city’s art scene got to her and she moved north to the Catskills, where she began rebuilding her art career in smaller galleries, new approaches. She built a new studio. Shows started accruing, then a 50 year retrospective at her alma mater back in Detroit, an invitation to show at the American Academy of Arts and Letters, where she was also given an award.
“In 50 years I learned a lot of things not to do. I’ve already gone through a lot of things that I know won’t work, although every painting has its little moments where you have to let go and give it over and surrender, but it’s not fraught the way it used to be. When you’ve painted a long time you get to know what mud is, and I know how to avoid it, stuff like that,” she said in an interview several years back, just as the darkest of her works were gaining her new acclaim, as well as new avenues to explore abstraction within. “The delicate balance between joy and suffering, hope and disappointment, life and death, struggle and release, perseverance and futility…The fine line between horror and humor is never going to go away in my work, because I spent my whole life on the dark side. But it’s definitely lightened up and it’s more animated to some extent…”
The new one-person exhibit at Sikkema Jenkins — known for showing such preeminent art figures as Trisha Brown, Vik Muniz and Kara Walker — runs January 24 through February 23. Named In a Lighter Place, it features often smaller pieces where the colors are brighter than in the past, the surfaces more playfully mixing light washes with cracked backgrounds.
In 2015, a 50 year retrospective was presented at the Center for Creative Studies and Paul Kotula Projects. That same year, her work was included in. A new process is on view, but also acknowledgement of all that preceded now.
“My work is not preconceived but is more akin to the improvisations of jazz. The painting develops through a series of intuitive choices guided by an understanding of formal issues and my years of experience…” she says of the new paintings.
And what about that sense of return this new exhibition represents, career-wise? How is she feeling about heading back into New York later this month?
“I guess some excitement and some apprehension,” Goodman replied. “Showing with Sikkema Jenkins is a huge leap in my long career and the gallery I’ve always wanted to show with. But I’m keeping my expectations balanced and I’ll see how it goes. Everyone I know is very excited about seeing this show and they’re rooting for me.”
As are we. After all, who doesn’t want to see ambition and talent, let alone perseverance and the struggles all great art involve, succeed in the final round.
For more on Brenda Goodman’s In a Lighter Place at Sikkema Jenkins Gallery, located at 530 West 22nd Street in the West Chelsea arts district in New York City, see www.sikkemajenkinsco.com. Or look for www.brendagoodman.com.