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Santa Monica

Remember those bleak, muddy canvases that Neo Ex was spawning around the mid-'80s? Back then Glenn Goldberg was making tidy paintings in blinding white with evocative markings incised in or veiled behind blanched pigment that looked fresh as new fallen snow.

Current works have a greater acuity and confidence, exchanging a slightly pouty nostalgia for unadulterated whimsy and charm. And they hold up wonderfully without bad Neo Ex to make them shine.

Still predominantly white, these ink, enamel and gesso on canvas works pit freely associative squiggles--some organic, others linear and taut like graph markings--against unexpected bits of color. The color comes in the form of checkerboard patterns locked in airy, white expanses or weightless ribbons banded by alternating primary hues. It’s all done with a free-hand, not-quite-perfect precision that makes them look both surreal and pristinely minimal.

In “School’s Out,” a series of thin vertical lines can’t contain the exuberance of a central oval contour; to the right, hand-rendered, nonsense letters are drawn as if from stencils, below, a geometric shape hinting at a prized pencil box drudges up the precocious mania of childhood. “For the Moms” is excellent as are the smaller drawings “Cleanser,” and “Hecklers.” This is one of those shows much better experienced than described. (Fred Hoffman Gallery, 912 Colorado Ave., to Dec. 23.)

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