Saul Ostrow for BlankSlate Publications

David Goodman makes large-scale collages. Perhaps more accurately, even though the final works are made of paper, plastic sheeting, tape, etc. it would be more accurate to write; “David Goodman uses collage to make large-scale abstract paintings.” The elements he collages together are unlike those of the DaDa-ist, or Surrealist in that rather than being ripped from the world and recombined into pictures, Goodman’s fragments are made from works that he has scrapped.

The primary visual vocabulary he deploys is a mix of various expressionist and process oriented devices: drips, splashes, thinly painted monochrome planes, fragments of cut up drawings of grids and stripes. These elements he mixes with shredded paper, packing tape, black plastic sheeting, glitter, etc. None of this bears a trace of their history – existing only as stuff; varied planes of color, patterns marks and affects –  till Goodman incorporates and composes them, their identity lies only in their material qualities. 

Despite their somewhat irregular shapes these elements are employed in a carefully measured manner– each is fitted together to form a roughly rectilinear format. The collage elements determine the overall shape of the work, which tend to be irregular, due to the fact that the edges of some collage elements exceed the imagined square that contains them. The resulting relationship of interior forms to framing edge are like Frank Stella’s Eccentric Polygon – or his early series of notched shaped canvas’ though not at all systemic, or necessarily logical. 

Goodman is seemingly, more interested in fracture (the split, the rupture and the discontinuous), and the physical cut as well as composing the heterogeneous, than in calling our attention to the re-contextualization, or re-purposing of each elements meaning-referent. Subsequently he is interested in how each part contributes but does not surrender to the whole its identity perseveres as it submits to and contributes to existent whole that it in part defines. Inversely, these elements are not merely abutted but their edges come to offer a framework for the addition of painterly responses that form yet another spatial structure.

Beyond their literalness, the factual way that these collages stick solely to the specifics of their construction and material sources, there is both illusion – the creation of a deceptive optical space denied by the physicality of the work and an allusion; in this case an indirect references by means of analogy to our desire to control the heterogeneous – that which is made of diverse elements into a composite and in so doing gain symbolic control over the dissimilar and the superfluous (excessive). 

This pairing of illusion (the deceptive) and allusion (indirect reference) is a significant aspect of Goodman’s work. This after effect (illusion) and the affect of pointing (allusion) returns us to an awareness that Goodman’s works function within differing registers, in which only one (that of allusion, which is comparative) subscribes, or submits to the symbolic realm of language.  This is also due to the fact that these works are based on a compositional strategy of stratification that offers up alternately acts of signification that are structuralist, aesthetic, and metaphorical. Subsequently, if we make sense of Goodman’s works in some specific manner– then some aspects of them must inversely will remain meaningless, in that these works do not denote or render or signifying a fixed text or subject – but merely indeterminate ones that reveals their own construction.

Goodman’s concern for material affect – the aesthetics of how diverse elements; shapes, surfaces, processes, materials, etc may be organized so as to articulate their differences and at the same time lend themselves to some all inclusive whole, reflects the fact that he intuitively exploits, rather than analytically, the idea that all experience is fractured, and it is from fragments and traces that we come to face the challenge of making sense of these. In dealing with making sense of his work (our ability to appreciates a particular quality or set of relationships) rather than derive meaning (their connotations, or denotations) Goodman works relate how (in what way) these things come to exist in the world and what we are to do with them (identify and understand our experience of them).

As you may note, terms and conditions used to describe his work tend to form binaries; therefore questions are raised concerning how we might understand within Goodman’s works: the difference between process and product, between intuition and plan, etc. In other words Goodman offers us a vision of the contemporary that acknowledges and re-iterates the massive aesthetic, conceptual and material changes that confront painting and painter today. In his approach to each, there seems to be an implication that modernity (the idea of representing, or creating the present) rather than being over remains an unfinished self-reflexive project.