LATE STYLE: At the culmination of a long and successful career, it would seem that an artist should have attained a manner that radiates well-earned serenity and that reflects the breadth and depth of a lifetime. Yet look closely at the work of those artists who are generally agreed to have a recognizable “late style” — artists such as Shakespeare, Beethoven, and Picasso — and you encounter something quite different. So-called late styles are often anything but serene; they are difficult rather than accessible, and they are prophetically fragmented rather than retrospectively comprehensive. This is one reason why Waterfalls, the current show of paintings by Joseph Goldyne on view at Sullivan Goss, An American Gallery (7 E. Anapamu St.) through July 1, offers such an interesting case study in the genre.
Goldyne, a Sonoma resident whose work came to the attention of the gallery through his authorship of a monograph on Lockwood de Forest, has been painting and creating prints for 40 years. His award-winning monotypes are in more than a dozen major museum collections, and he’s had solo shows at the Fresno Art Museum in 2000 and at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., in 2001. With these spare and dramatic recent pictures of elongated (and imaginary) waterfalls, Goldyne accomplishes the unlikely feat of harmonizing the two sides of our late-style conundrum.
From one point of view, these are elegant, Zen-like works, and their bold and shining central verticals tap into the meditative energy and aspirational associations of similarly configured abstractions. From another angle, a somewhat disturbing allegorical self-portrait emerges. By stretching these drops until they’re improbably big, Goldyne — who has never seen a giant waterfall in person — appears to be perpetually reimagining an impossibly beautiful place from which it’s all straight downhill. In “Waterfall IX” (2009), a savage white blast showers down through the lower 68 inches of the picture’s 72-inch vertical dimension. It’s almost a Barnett Newman “zip” — the great abstractionist’s open-ended vertical line was associated with transcendence and regarded as implying a connection between heaven and earth. But, as long and strong as they may be, these stretched-out waterfalls mostly begin and end within the frame, thus rendering them more blips than zips, no matter how lengthy and powerful. In any event, this is an excellent and thought-provoking show, and one that demonstrates how effective painting can be at adding layers of complexity to our understanding of even the most familiar figures.
BLASTED OBJECTS: Over at Lola Boutique, the stylish and carefully curated resale clothing store at the back of Victoria Court, Dan Levin’s assemblage show, Mischievous Allegory II, has been extended through May 31. Levin takes the detritus of popular culture, mixes it with healthy doses of natural objects, flotsam, and jetsam, and reorganizes it all in the reflection of the funhouse mirror that is his playfully punning hyperconsciousness. Whether it’s through the poetically arranged clear glass containers of natural objects in such works as “eucalypto,” “precious,” and “hemingway” or the shocking inversions of meaning represented by the shotgun-shell peace symbol called “swords to ploughshares” or the cigarette-butt double helix titled “nicotine and narcissism,” Levin consistently achieves a kind of cracked coherence. To stay in touch with one of our city’s most restless and surprising imaginations, get over to Lola before June, or visit danlevin.com, where the artist presents his “Objects of Curiosity.”