Abby Goldstein

by Lucio Pozzi

Abby Goldstein, Untitled, 2003, charcoal and pencil on handmade Japanese paper, 14 x 22 inches. All images courtesy of the artist.

Fragile antennae of a delicate insect in a grassy field, the flashlight beam of a boy lost in the forest after dark, the frantic grooves left by a motorcycle on the flats of a salt lake, spirals of thought from a Zen monk’s meditation—all are traces of wandering. Being here and finding myself living: what can I do about it? Tangle and untangle the links, run forward and then backward, like an ant, sensitive, and particularly, specifically, incontrovertibly here.

Abby Goldstein espies the clusters her hand combines just as she makes them. She applies wet paint and dry pencil on rectangular wooden panels, sanded and smoothed to become sensitized, almost like paper. Her process is elementary: first a coat of paint all over, then the lyrical and mad markings. One line knots itself, bringing about condensations of marks that alternate with their dispersions. Her gestures are tracers changing direction at the speed of fathom. There is no reason for doing all this line work, but then, when it has been added to the realm of things, it pulls at my mind like a magnetic sponge. I enter, scan, travel with my eyes. Think of a butterfly as it lights in one place where it specializes its attention until it flies away again; the wind decides where. The wind of the painter is whim: why not intensify madly here to lengthen the journey of the hand toward the next station? In these paintings there is the macrocosm of paint work and, attached to the surface like a parasite imitating the larger map, the microcosm of pencil work. A zoomed-in imagery embedded in a zoomed-out one.

Abby Goldstein, Untitled, 2002, acrylic, gouache, and pencil on paper, 12 x 10 inches.

The colors are tonally close in each artwork, with enough contrast to propel the viewer’s mind to travel inside its circuitry. These paintings are meditations that reach the margins of visual cognition. They are so simple and do so much by merely trusting taste, touch, and improvisation. I run inside them and afterimages build into my thoughts. Goldstein’s marks echo the nervous labyrinths of my mind. I look at her paintings and they reflect me to myself.

There is a great movement underway, an attempt to cure painting of the explanationitis virus that has spread like a leaden blanket over our culture. Painting is painting and can happen in a million ways. What lends intensity to each piece is the feeling with which it is made and not the genre to which it might get apportioned. Abby Goldstein has a number of formats she likes to investigate: clustering, intersecting, spinning lines in a doodle of curves is one; texts from books maniacally copied in tiny penciled force lines layered in radial patterns is another. Goldstein started this latter group of paintings while reading Primo Levi’s Periodic Tables, a collection of short stories that compares the properties of elements to those of human emotions. She alternates between the two modes, doodling and copying, interrupting their dialogue by depicting a dried pod or a flower in the very middle of a maze of words.

Summer 2003
The cover of BOMB 84