Picture of the Week: Untitled by Brenda Goodman

July 16, 2023

Untitled, Brenda Goodman, n.d., oil on canvas 51 1/4 x 33 x 1 1/4 in.

Brenda Goodman was born in Detroit in 1943. She earned her BFA from the College of Creative Studies, where she also received an Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts in 2017. Her art career began in Detroit, where she was a notable member of the Cass Corridor movement in the 1960s. In the early 1970s, Goodman exhibited her work alongside artists such as Philip Guston, Jack Tworkov, and Willem de Kooning at the Gertrude Kasle Gallery. She had her first solo show at the Willis Gallery in 1973. She moved to New York City in 1976, where she has had numerous solo exhibitions and was included in the 1979 Whitney Biennial. In 2015, Goodman’s career and artwork was celebrated in a 50 year retrospective at the Center for Creative Studies and Paul Kotula Projects.Her work was included in the American Academy of Arts and Letters annual invitational that same year, where she was honored with the Award in Art. Goodman was recently featured in a solo exhibition at the Simone DeSousa Gallery, entitled BRENDA GOODMAN: Back on Willis Street. She has received many notable awards and honors, including fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the New York Foundation for the Arts. Her work is part of several public collections, including those of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Santa Barbara Museum of Art; the Detroit Institute of Arts; Cranbrook Art Museum; and the Wayne State University Art Collection. 

Goodman’s artwork has evolved over the years. She adopted an abstract expressionist approach to painting in the early stages of her career, then transitioned to a more personal approach, with some surrealist influence. While her untitled work is not dated, some details suggest that she composed it in the early 1970s. Goodman utilizes a primarily neutral color palette for the background, with shades of beige and white. She juxtaposes this neutral setting with bold primary and secondary colors, drawing the eye to the forms soaring through the space. She fills the canvas with planes, rockets, and parachutes, and abstracted forms, flying in all directions. A gray plane swoops down to the bottom of the composition, with an explosion of black swirls above it. Rather than a completely flat canvas, Goodman creates a highly textured surface, with tears that follow the twists and turns of the brushstrokes. This work shares some resemblance with her 1971 work War Drawing #1, which was included in the notable DIA exhibition Kick Out the Jams: Detroit’s Cass Corridor 1963-1977. Like Goodman’s untitled painting, War Drawing #1, also includes planes, flying through an unknown setting. To add, War Drawing #1 is meant to depict World War II planes in an unknown setting; It may also allude to the destruction that ensued in the Vietnam War, which lasted from 1955 to 1975. Perhaps the ambiguous settings in both of Goodman’s works are meant to signify the disorienting destruction of war; Lands that were once home for many have been destroyed in the crossfire. In both War Drawing #1 and her untitled painting, Goodman illustrates the dizzying chaos of war, while omitting any graphic details of war casualties. 

Written by Angela Athnasios

Sources: https://www.sikkemajenkinsco.com/ex2019-01-23-brenda-goodman


Cummings, Frederick J. and Mary J. Jacob et. al. Kick Out the Jams: Detroit's Cass Corridor, 1963-1977, The Detroit Institute of Arts. 1980. 

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