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The Night Has Eyes


a memorial exhibit


Joseph Goldberg, Dark of Night, 2009, encaustic on linen over wood, 36 x 36 in

i.e. presents this exhibit courtesy of Greg Kucera Gallery in Seattle and in honor of Joe Goldberg: star gazer, painter's painter, lover of poetry, stones, and the arts. He stretched our visual imagination for us here in the Pacific Northwest.

Joseph Goldberg was born in 1947 in Seattle and raised near Spokane in Eastern Washington. He was educated at the University of Washington until he dropped out in 1968 at the encouragement of some of his teachers who knew that academic rigor wasn’t going to teach (or tame) this most natural of artists.

His first few exhibitions in the late 1960s, with Francine Seders Gallery in Seattle, revealed two separate inquiries into abstraction. At the time he was living in the basement of Seders’ Greenwood area gallery. He was producing small landscape drawings and paintings that were somewhat surrealistic in nature. He was beginning the course of abstraction that would define his early career. 

By 1975, these works on paper would develop into larger works in oil or wax over linen stretched over wood panels. The central floating images became striated and sometimes even gestural. A series of tall vertical paintings in the late 1970s and early 1980s suggested classical columns or vertebrae.

Goldberg had traveled in England in 1978  visiting ancient Roman ruins and Greek revival manors. He would later travel extensively in the western regions of the U.S., particularly the Southwest where the artist visited Zuni and Navajo reservations, Anasazi ruins and Hopi pueblos. These travels left a profound imprint on his work.

By the early 1980s, Goldberg had perfected the technique of encaustic painting for which he would become most well-known. By mixing brilliantly hued raw pigments with translucent beeswax, Goldberg used a tradition of painting that dates back to  the Greco-Romans in Egypt in the third century. He built his painted surfaces with layer after layer of pigment and wax until a palpable luminescence was achieved. The surface was flamed and buffed developing a waxy, lustrous sheen.

In the mid-1980s Goldberg began shaping the canvas itself into round or ovoid shapes suggestive of planets or their rings and moons. He will leave and return to these shaped canvases throughout his career. Just as he moved between the abstract and representational. In the later 1980s and early 1990s a broader sense of abstraction encompassed the suggestions of trees, rural architecture, even pueblo ruins the artist had seen in the southwest.

In the late 1990s, Goldberg exhibited a group of landscapes depicting the familiar forms of gorges, ridges, fields found near Soap Lake in Eastern Washington, where the artist had been living since 1984. These land, sky and waterscapes revealed that this appreciation of the natural world had been a constant throughout his life. Lightning, was a recurring theme in a number of pieces as well as a group of haunting paintings of owls in flight. The owls grew out of Goldberg’s personal encounters with several owls who became familiar to him in his daily life after he moved to the isolation of Harrington, in the high dessert of Eastern Washington.

The paintings since 2000 are mindful of the late Mondrian works and a deeper exploration of space and edges. Whether painting the indigo between the glowing stars in the deep, dark night skies, or poetic suggestions of stars reflecting in the marshy water of a murky pond, Goldberg has produced a sensitively wrought body of work. In the starkest paintings, Goldberg renders the expansive ground between disparate objects of rural detritus abandoned at the edges of a field.

 Goldberg also created mysterious three-dimensional box sculptures. These minimal wooden boxes contained gridded compositions made of tightly strung steel wires with coke cinders attached and arranged in seemingly random compositions resembling constellations of stars or rocks strewn across a desert landscape. On viewing these head on one realizes the coke cinders are generally arranged in strictly symmetrical patterns. These relate especially to  the paintings made in the early 2000s where small squares of color are arranged in bilateral, quadrilateral or mirrored symmetry.

"I noticed if you have chaos on one side and then mirror it, on the other you end up with balance, order, and a peaceful stillness."  Joseph Goldberg

Joseph Goldberg died from injuries sustained in an automobile accident near his home in Harrington, Washington, in December 2017.


JAY STEENSMA, Chalice, oil on canvas,

36 x 44 in, 1992


Joseph Goldberg, study for Night Has Eyes, 2011, watercolor and gesso on paper, 30 x 22 in

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