Foreword and Acknowledgements

It is my pleasure to present the Montclair State University community, our constituents, and the general public an exciting fall 2011 exhibition. This semester, the George Segal Gallery looks into the currents of a global culture that generates refreshing expressions to contemporary art. Dr. Donald Kuspit, curator of the exhibition, Carol Brown Goldberg Painting & Sculpture, takes us from the twentieth-century American abstract expressionism and op art and into the untapped subliminal-perhaps spiritual-dimensions marking the first decade of twenty-first century art.

Obtaining opportunities derived from the twenty-first-century revolution in communications and technology, today’s art asserts greater freedom in concept, such as those inspired by the instantaneous World Wide Web technology, materials such as pulverized glass, and above all the eye-opening influx of web information never before accessed by humankind. The result reveals an environment of heightened experience beyond the reaches of the eye. Surpassing the order of expressionistic painting and mesmerizing optics of the twentieth century, Washington D.C.-based artist Carol Brown Goldberg takes us to the eloquence of the senses.

On behalf of the George Segal Gallery, I thank Dr. Donald Kuspit for his unconventional choices and Carol Brown Goldberg for her art, support, enthusiasm, and patience in the making of this exhibition. Credits are also due to her efficient assistant, Sean Logue, who prepared all aspects of handling and documentation of the works, catalogue designer Marshall Cohen of Mars Design, and to the George Segal staff, Anthony Louis Rodriguez and Miriam Jacobs. We are grateful to Montclair State President Susan Cole, Provost Willard Gingerich, and College of the Arts Dean Geoffrey Newman for their support, and to the following departments and divisions: Communications, Development, Office of the Dean, College of the Arts, Facilities, Accounts Payable and Purchasing, the Alumni Relations, and the George Segal Gallery board for their services.

Without our sponsors, this exhibition would not have been realized, and we therefore thank the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, the John McMullen Family Foundation, and the George Segal Gallery’s Art Connections 7 fundraising event.

M. Teresa Lapid Rodriguez
Director, George Segal Gallery

Excerpts from: Reinventing Aura: Carol Goldberg’s Abstract Paintings

By Donald Kuspit

The ultimate creative “act” is clearly the creation of the cosmic order of similar differences and different similarities. Goldberg’s new abstract paintings are a convincing attempt to represent that cosmic order in its dialectical essentials. Perception of particular facts–the colorful and formal details of sense experience, meticulously articulated–and their assimilative conception in an over-all or all-inclusive (cosmic) order, so that each factual detail seems implicated in and inseparable from every other, become parallel lines of consciousness that converge in the holomovement of Goldberg’s paintings.

Goldberg’s new abstract paintings assert the power of the center, and their auratic center is implicitly a halo. She has released the creative energy stored in the finite circular halo, and let it radiate freely through infinite space.

Goldberg reinvents aura by reconciling the opposites that have tended to develop separately in abstract painting. (Each finally becomes an empty extreme.) The esthetic result has more spiritual effect–greater auratic authority–than each is capable of achieving by itself. If esthetic experience is immature spiritual experience, then spiritual experience is mature experience of the implicate order. The esthetically convincing abstract painting becomes spontaneously spiritual, but an exclusively geometrical or gestural esthetic is nowhere near as spiritually convincing–conveys much less cosmic feeling, to use Roger Fry’s term—than a “cosmically” inclusive dialectic.

Goldberg’s abstract paintings offer much more than a shallow impression of aura, as Albers do, or an unstable mood of aura, as Pollock’s do. For her aura is not inarticulate and indefinite–problematic and vague–but an epitomizing expression of the implicate order. Goldberg’s aura conveys its intense definiteness–the relentless process of creative enfoldment that is the holomovement. Her aura has ontological presence: it is unequivocally given–substantially real–rather than an epistemological myth or elusive feeling.

If science is mysticism satisfied–what seems beyond comprehension made comprehensible—then Goldberg’s abstract paintings show that the seemingly mystical, incomprehensible implicate order is scientifically comprehensible.


By Jack Rasmussen

When artists make paintings, they are also constructing metaphors. Artists use their formal and iconographic means to create metaphors that exploit the expectations of viewers. Viewers expect to find sense or order (i.e. meaning) in a work of art, and artists expect them to look for it. Painting is, at its heart, a communicative act, and metaphor is its language.

The basic form of metaphor is analogy: A:B::C:D, or A is to B as C is to D. When viewers expect to understand a work of art and possess the relevant cultural knowledge artists assume they have, artists will be free to try out different values for the missing variables and arrive at their own interpretations.

We can test this hypothesis on a painting by Carol Brown Goldberg, Bertrand Russell Visits Bancroft Road, 2007 (opposite page). Carol began by taking a large (84” x 96”) stretched and primed canvas and covering it completely with a pure Mars Black acrylic. Next, she divided the painting surface into quadrants and covered one quadrant at a time with glue. Before the glue could dry, Carol took iridescent, highly reflective, laser-cut particles of silver, white, and copper and scattered them across the deep, black space.

What looks so free and chaotic, when understood as part of the artist’s process, becomes purposeful and meaningful. Already, even while Carol is preparing the first layers of her background and before she has introduced iconography of any sort, we find a metaphor waiting for us. Iridescence : Stars :: Black : Space. Iridescent particles are to stars as black paint is to space. Light comes from the void. Each subsequent act in her process enriches the metaphor, expanding its potential for meaning.

Carol next glues a rectangle of very thin, textured rice paper in the middle of her black and iridescent field. The rectangular shape brings structure to the void and also creates a plane in space, perhaps like the firmament dividing heaven and earth. Then, Carol takes a loaded brush and flings thin lines of white, red, copper, and bronze acrylic enamel at the painting, her gestures creating a controlled, rhythmic chaos over the other layers… a seemingly random, isotropic field.

Finally, Carol paints a grid of circles with a mixture of metallic silver and iridescent pearl, starting at the outside edges of the canvas, the circles getting progressively lighter as they move toward the center. She leaves the center open, an area slightly larger than the rectangle formed by the rice paper.

As we physically and mentally move from layer to layer, we feel the tension between order and chaos: the formal perfection of the circle against the formless space, the rectangle locking in the center of the larger rectangle, dividing the space into layers, front to infinity.

When I asked Carol where the fascination with physics and the cosmos originated, she mentioned reading her brother’s copy of The ABC of Relativity by Bertrand Russell. The book sought to steer readers with no knowledge of mathematics or physics through Einstein’s theories of special and general relativity, gravitation, and the hydrogen bomb. This book was the beginning of Carol’s life-long affair with science, mathematics, and philosophy, making their concepts and theories the subject of, and inspiration for, her art. When questioned about her extended forays into the right side of her brain, Carol could have quoted Bertrand Russell: “Emotion that can be destroyed by a little mathematics is neither genuine nor valuable.”

I used to think it was the job of the artist to impose order on the chaos around us, but watching Carol’s work evolve over the years, I now think the artist may be discovering order in what to us only appears to be chaotic. The job of the artist would seem to require equal parts faith and science. Carol Brown Goldberg possesses both these gifts, and the sensitivity and skill to construct visual metaphors suggesting our place in a beautiful and mysterious universe.


Painting as Meditation

Barbara Rose
In her recent paintings, Carol Brown Goldberg returns to concerns she first investigated in her earliest abstractions. In those paintings, she investigated the relationship of bright colored eccentric volumetric shapes to the space through which they were hurtling with careening speed. Her new paintings, on the other hand, while still radiating life and energy, do so with a subtle rhythmic pulsation of circles that seem to move imperceptivity as we look at them.
Undoubtedly in these new paintings there is a relationship to the retinal stimulation of “op art.” However, rather than dazzling the eye with a superficial brilliance derived from the interaction of adjacent colors, these paintings draw us in with their darker mystery. They permit, indeed they require, an extended duration in order to be fully perceived. In this sense, they are more related to Ad Reinhardt’s icons for meditation than they are to hard edge geometric painting. There is an evident structure derived from an underlying grid, but it is not mindlessly adhered to. The circles, which seem to shift as we observe them, constitute only one of the complex series of intertwined illusions that the artist, now certain of what she has to say and equipped with the wisdom of experience, is able to realize. The degree of sophistication required to master such a task informs us that it is the result of building on what has gone before, transforming the unguided energy of youth into the discipline of an ordered sense of space and a more conspicuous awareness of time.