Welcome to the 20th century


What: "Joseph Goldberg: A Reminiscence"

When: 4 pm Sat., Nov. 17

Where: i.e. gallery, Edison


Fir Island resident Mike Rust will shed light on an artist who impacted so many other painters of the Pacific Northwest

Cost: Free


Wednesday, November 14, 2018

We live in a time when all past artistic styles are relevant and flourish. In two Skagit Valley galleries through November, the spirit of 20th century abstraction lives on in the work of the late Joseph Goldberg, of Harrington, Washington, and Amy Carson of La Conner.

Goldberg’s work at i.e. gallery in Edison reveals the joy and sadness of this secretive artist, who was important enough to have been memorialized in a University of Washington monograph, Joseph Goldberg, Jeweled Earth.  “A star gazer, lover of poetry, stones and the arts,” he was largely self-taught. He quietly perfected an encaustic painting technique, building up layers of pigment and wax to flame and buff to a high sheen. 

Goldberg admired the work of Kasimir Malevich. His paintings since 2000 also suggest an affinity with Mondrian. Goldberg once remarked, “If you have chaos on one side and mirror it, you end up with balance, order and a peaceful stillness.” His “Desert Tracks” (2016) exemplifies these qualities, with rough rectangles of azure and indigo arranged in mirrored symmetry, partly submerged in a glowing matrix of gray and white. 

“Untitled: Stones” (2017) suggests a scattering of gemstones swimming in a parchment-hued sea. Goldberg’s longtime friend, Mike Rust—who’ll shed light on the gifted artist at a public talk at 4pm, Sat., Nov. 17 at the gallery—remembers the artist decorating a motel room with his favorite agates when they went on a ski trip together.

Rocks also feature in Goldberg’s three-dimensional sculptures of coke cinders arranged on tightly strung steel wires. They might represent stellar constellations or stones strewn across a desert.

And his love for stargazing is evident in “First Snow”—but the snowflakes resemble cartoon stars on a Disney magician’s cloak. And one painting reveals a crisis of despair: in “I Am No More Into These Fields” (1968), a stylized skull raises five improbable fingers against a stark field of gray.

Christian Carlson, at the Perry and Carlson Gallery in Mount Vernon ( remarks that the work of Amy Carson has an “early 20th century feeling,”—meaning Paul Klee, Kandinsky, and the Bauhaus style. The massive shapes in “City on the Water at Night“ (1995) bear out this comparison. “Perimeter Lost” (2018), is almost a figure study with voluptuous, flesh-colored curves against white and black negative space.

Many of Carson’s pieces offer happy line drawing, including “Fremont Boat Speakeasy” (oil on graphite on paper, 1997). Its juxtaposition of shapes suggests boats standing on end or a pair of tipsy nuns.

But a sinister vision appears with Carson, as well. The black negative field and looming shapes of “Tell a Story” (oil on canvas, 1989) may be a giant spider about to pounce—or bare knees and open mouth in a terrifying scream.

In contrast to Goldberg, a talented loner whose teachers encouraged him to drop out of school, Carson has degrees from the University of Colorado, the architecture institute in London, and the Rhode Island School of Design. An independent businesswoman, she has lived in the valley since 2004 and soon will open a design shop in La Conner.

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