If, while walking through Barry Goldberg's show, you feel you've suddenly come down with a case of enhanced peripheral vision, not to worry. It's just that you haven't seen a lot of big, lush, Technicolor paintings on the walls of Larry Becker Contemporary Art in a long, long time. Maybe not since the last time Goldberg showed his work here, in 2004.
The unpredictable color combinations in Goldberg's recent paintings take your eyes on a virtual train ride, as do their compositions: wide lines of white, black, and cream that outline rectangles of vivid, watery color like windowpanes, circuitry, bridges, train tracks, or highways. The painting's surfaces are more diverse within each individual work than before, too. One band of paint might be as lush and matte as velvet, while a rectangle contiguous to it has been scraped down to a jewellike clarity (most of these new works are in oil and pigment stick).
The play that Goldberg orchestrates between light and dark, soft and sharp, and transparent and dense has become increasingly fluid, at times even reminiscent of early photographic negatives. Looking at the stripped-down cobalt-violet rectangle that makes up one half of his diptych painting Arno and Liguria, for example, you can envision two trees or a waterfall in its depths.
Goldberg works out his colors and compositions in preliminary watercolor studies, many of which are included here. But the paintings that follow them are so faithful to the studies - though much larger and more painterly - that you might think the paintings came first.
In fact, much of Goldberg's work seems to ask a viewer to think counterintuitively. The triptych painting Oguni-Numa, with its panels of brownish Mars violet, yellow-over-green, and ultramarine blue, suggests a riff on Barnett Newman's Who's Afraid of Red, Yellow, and Blue? paintings of the late 1960s - but why is the blue a true blue, like Newman's ultramarine, while the red is an earthy brown and the yellow is green? There are other nods to Newman here and there in Goldberg's work, especially to such paintings of the late 1940s as Onement I and The Command, with their vertical "zip" and streaky paint application. But Goldberg's paintings are so thoroughly his that those references seem an homage to the abstractionist's devotion to the heroic sublime he envisioned for his art, rather than to his paintings.
There are other wonderful pieces here: for one, L & N, whose pink and brown rectangles and overlapping square outlines of white and black seem to be about memory (you have to wonder if Goldberg was thinking of the famous, defunct Louisville & Nashville Railroad system, the song "The L&N Don't Stop Here" it inspired, or neither, when he titled it). Also The Trapper, with its rectangles of two slightly different yellow-greens separated by a pale blond line, and Tampico, stacked silver and burnt-orange rectangles outlined with turquoise.
Very, very large
Monumental drawings are a relatively new phenomenon in contemporary art, especially ones that occupy space as large paintings and murals have traditionally done. Gallery Joe's "Very, Very Large Drawings" displays sprawling, unframed works - by Sandra Allen, Emily Brown, Sabine Friesicke, Ani Hoover, Linn Meyers, Jill O'Bryan, and Allyson Strafella - that take over this high-ceilinged gallery with aplomb.
O'Bryan has the largest and most remarkable piece in this show, a scroll-like drawing that looks like an enormous grave-rubbing, which, in a sense, it is; O'Bryan, who lives half the year in New Mexico, put her paper on outcroppings of rock near Santa Fe and then rubbed it with charcoal.
Friesicke's pulsing, gouache-on-paper Metropolitan Time recalls paintings of nocturnal New York by Georgia O'Keeffe, but also paintings that have a similarly imperfect grid template by Roger Brown and Agnes Martin.
Most of the work here is nonrepresentational; the two works with recognizable imagery - an ethereal ink-on-paper painting by Emily Brown of a view of Wave Hill, the estate-turned-arboretum and gallery at the upper edges of the Bronx, and Sandra Allen's gestural graphite drawing of a lower section of a palm tree and its roots - are the engaging exceptions.