Neil Goodman at Perimeter Gallery


Cast Bronze
76″ x 26″ x 26″
Photo: courtesy Perimeter Gallery

It’s always been a questionable concept that formalists are somehow more cerebral and aloof and less emotive and effusive than their expressionist colleagues. You know, the belief that Brancusi is forever more subtle and refined, than, say, the aggressive passion of a Giacometti, that a reductivist will prioritize thought ahead of feeling, visual values ahead of those rooted in emotion. Little could belie that more than the recent bronze sculpture of Neil Goodman, where so much seethes just beneath their seemingly imperturbable and measured surfaces, and where a quiet but fierce intensity makes vibrant what initially appeaar to be stoic-seeming sculptures. The cauldron that is bronze casting seems always a part of this, the sense that these forms, which variously suggest implements of work, devolved tools, or shapes that exude a sense of labor, are forged and chastened through unimaginable heat, somehow cleansed and purified by their journey.

Take, for example, Pulse (2014). It so subtly morphs one form into another, a kind of wishbone shape slides into becoming tongs, resting on what seems the edges of curved, scythe-like blades. Goodman’s work often seems to be imbued with a sense of history, as if these are monuments to the dignity of labor (including his own as sculptor), with an implication that even ancient tools were designed with an eye toward symmetry and efficiency that is often surprisingly modern. Pulse is, of course, no specific tool, and the way it torques in space-how the front of one of its planes slides into becoming the side of its companion-sends a viewer rotating around and around this piece, as top becomes bottom, front becomes back, and void becomes volume.

Goodman showed several such freestanding works, and a few that are more articulated towards a wall, exhibiting frontal views that take great advantage of the shadows cast through and behind them. A large piece such as Sway (2014), hung from the ceiling like some ponderous curtain, is enlivened by the inventory of individual shapes Goodman has scattered across its grid. There are about 30 such shapes, mini-sculptures (some do repeat), that are a bit of a retrospective of the objects Goodman has fiddled with over the past few decades: some offer a form of almost pure geometric play, with others tied to forms rooted in use, though all are visually obsessive to him. Each alone is an exquisite formal exercise. Together, they comprise the dynamic