In the wake of the passing of his close friend and frequent collaborator Keith Puccinelli, Dane Goodman has worked unstintingly not only to preserve Puccinelli’s legacy but also to evaluate and reflect on his own long, distinguished career as one of our region’s most important contemporary artists. Following on the success of Puccinality: The Handmade Life of Fran and Keith Puccinelli, the 2017 show he cocurated with Meg Linton and Dan Connally, Goodman has returned to the space where that exhibition took place and reimagined his own career in a brilliantly executed set of juxtapositions covering four decades of masterful, idiosyncratic art making.
Drawing on his extensive experience with curating and hanging shows of other people’s art, Goodman has created an installation that’s at once vivid and meaningful, a distillation of the impulses that have led him to operate in multiple media and to consciously explore the dynamic interface where formal ideas meet with personal experiences and deep emotions. Arranged as a kind of carousel, works on paper and, in one case, plastic bags, circle around a center held by bold sculptural statements. Goodman often works in series that reflect the fundamental principles of modern design thinking, yet he tempers this affinity for rigor with an equally active impulse toward elevating everyday materials to fine-art status.
The first of the show’s “consorts,” or juxtapositions of related pairs of works, comes with the way he has installed the 2012 sculpture “tree head” in front of the series of paintings on plastic cereal bags called “rank and file” that was completed between 2013 and 2018. “rank and file” required Goodman to operate under a significant constraint. Like a hobbyist constructing a model ship inside a bottle, Goodman painted bright faces on the inside of dozens of the plastic bags that keep cereals fresh in their boxes. Refusing the easy way out, he resisted the temptation to simply turn the bags inside out and instead taught himself to manipulate a small brush on the inside surface of the bags. Often the results needed immediate attention from a handheld hair dryer in order not to be lost to running and blurring. Forming an inverted pyramid out of them on the wall allowed him to pick up on the origins of the shorn Christmas tree trunk that stands in front of them, its branches lopped off and the bare cuts left visible painted with bright colors, perhaps recalling the lights that once adorned the tree when it was whole. At its base, there’s a gnomic figure of a head, echoing the subject of the bag portraits on the wall. Taken together, these consorts evoke a complex response to the ritual of Christmas morning, with its breakfast around the tree and the expectation of gifts.
Deeper into the room, one encounters several examples of Goodman’s signature active line, the distinctive touch that serves as an autograph in his various drawings and paintings. “Lyle and Grace,” a wonderful series of monochrome drawings from 2000 that documents the later life of his wife’s father, is, like many of Goodman’s series on paper, punctuated with a lone sculptural element, in this instance a bed carved out of soap titled “gone.” On the far wall from the entrance, there’s an earlier series, “sunrise/sunset” from 1986, that withholds the gestural mark of the hand in favor of variations on a two-part geometric theme. Paired with this series, one finds the show’s pivotal object, a truly marvelous, uncanny sculpture from 2017 called “parcel of privacies.” Heaped on the floor and shaped like an unruly bag, this shiny beast evokes for the artist and viewer alike the depth and resonance of secrets and intimacies held fast by human trust. As such, it’s a fitting centerpiece for this delightful, wide-ranging, and accomplished exhibition.
Dane Goodman’s Consorts shows at UCSB’s College of Creative Studies Gallery through Saturday, October 13.