While the late 19th century impact of Japanese aesthetics on western art in general and the Impressionists in particular has been well documented, significantly less attention has been paid to its influence on the evolution of surrealism, abstract expressionism and other non-objective approaches in the west since the early years of the twentieth century.
Reacting against the rigid western principle that reality in the corporeal universe was based solely on reason and the actuality of physical structure itself, many of the surrealists and later, the action painters, looked to Zen notions of reality as a more mysterious realm of interpretational illusion filled with images more accurately felt than seen. As the ethnomusicologist Fredric Lieberman noted in his essay titled Zen Buddhism and Its Relationship to Elements of Eastern and Western Art, non-objective artists were drawn to Zen principles based on the idea that “Oriental art depicts spirit, while Western art depicts form” and further, that these artists came to believe the differences between the two could be reconciled.
This ongoing painterly juxtapositional marriage of form and feeling serves as the underlying theme in works by Colin Goldberg at Glenn Horowitz Bookseller in East Hampton. Titled “Techspressionism” and curated by Scott Bluedorn, the exhibition highlights the artist’s joining of digital technology and gestural painting to create works that are both energetically rhythmic and elegantly choreographed. Using the more painterly motifs as a ground, the artist superimposes the digital imagery in a manner which allows the two to seamlessly interact, conjuring imaginary horizons amidst swoops of color, light, or line that serve to orchestrate the cadences and modulated harmonies of the images themselves.
This is particularly notable in works such as Magnetic Resonance (acrylic with pigment on canvas, 2014) in which the superimposed imagery vibrates with an understated intensity while, at the same time, the artist’s confidant use of negative space allows for the geometric elements to assertively establish themselves within the painting’s organizational framework. In addition, Mr. Goldberg uses elegantly fragile linear components that bend as if being warped in some spatial anomaly and that impart a subtle yet persistent sense of perspective and distance that insistently draws the viewer’s gaze from the lower quadrant inward towards the center of the composition itself.
These sensibilities are also apparent in works such as Dynamic Dispatch (acrylic and spray enamel on canvas, 2011) and Wireframe Landscape #2 (laser etched marble, 2006) while in New Plastic Shoda #6, the artist uses a stylized calligraphic character that serves to simultaneously anchor the background portion of the picture plane while depth and a graceful rotational motion is provided by the geometric image that floats, seemingly effortlessly but with a certain dynamic persistence, in the work’s foreground.
Also of significance is that while calligraphic elements and their emphasis on expressiveness and asymmetry have always been the most prevalent component of Asian art to impact on the abstract expressionists such as deKooning, Francis, Tobey, or Kline, by contrast Mr. Goldberg at times also draws on stylistic motifs and use of color commonly associated with 18th and 19th century traditional Japanese wood-block printing.
In Iruka (pigment and acrylic on birch panels with liquid polymer, 2013), for example, the artist manipulates the digital elements so that they take on a strikingly similar configuration and sense of organic power as the ocean waves in Hokusai’s seminal print The Great Wave off Kanegawa from the series 36 Views of Mount Fuji. There’s a similar sensibility at work in Inazuma (acrylic and pigment with liquid polymer on birch panels, 2013) that, aside from the three-panel motif, seems to gently echo the compositional structure of a later work by the same artist titled Kaijo no Fuji.
Further along these lines, the artist also channels the energy and intensity of contemporary Japanese graphic novels (known as ‘manga’) in works such as the series titled Variations (acrylic, pearlescent latex glaze and pigment on linen) as well as also in some of the smaller pieces like Itadaki (Gouache and pigment transfer with liquid polymer on birch panel, 2014) and Kawa (acrylic and pigment with liquid polymer on birch panel, 2014).
The exhibition of works by Colin Goldberg titled “Techspressionism” continues through November 11 at Glenn Horowitz Bookseller at 87 Newtown Lane, East Hampton New York. (631) 324-5511. www.techspressionism.com