Judith Goldsmith calls this show of recent work “A Visual Fantasy of Personally Idiosyncratic and Unexpected Collaborations.” It also works as a secular variation on medieval depictions of the Last Judgment. She has painted a frame around the edges of each large painting, as if to emphasize that these are visions and not room decorations. Each painting has two registers, corresponding to a blissful heaven above and an angst-ridden hell below. Confronting the life that stretches out before them, younger Abstract Expressionist painters tend to offer us the one or the other, but looking back with the wisdom of age, Goldsmith deals with both. In the upper register, she’s not so much thrilled by opportunity as hanging onto fond experience. Not surprisingly, elsewhere she is also a painter of still lifes. None of her realistic work is in this show, but exuberance for detail has evidentially migrated from one genre to the other. As she marks, drips, scratches or smushes pigment, she creates secretive areas of wonderful detail and builds up larger grids and geometric structures. Her combination of assertive strokes with passive drips conflates intention with chance. Isn’t that how all good things happen? In the lower register, nervous energy has turned into full-blown anxiety. No chromatic excitement here—the space is controlled by dark, thick, tangled lines. It’s bad news and nobody can avoid it. Each of these paintings demonstrates the momentarily successful, but ultimately doomed, attempt to hang onto a good life.
This series also includes a few smaller abstract paintings where brushstrokes play a bigger role, presenting designs that are more whimsical and sensual. By way of contrast, one piece from an earlier series is also shown. Executed fifteen years ago, it feels more confrontational. Just like a younger human body, the shapes are bold and assertive rather than dripping and sagging.
Goldsmith has an academic mind. Not that she participates in the trending dialogs of academia, but she seems to be a perpetual student of painting and design, as well as her own existence, even as she approaches the sixth decade of her career. (Chris Miller)
Through May 31 at Rosenthal Fine Art, 640 North LaSalle