Review: Brett Goodroad, truck driver by trade, crosses the line between figurative and abstract art

“Untitled (Little Blue)” by Brett Goodroad, 2021, oil on linen canvas. Photo: Courtesy Cushion Works

Brett Goodroad makes a living driving trucks in the southwest for an organic veggie distributor, but you’d never guess if you looked at his paintings. Neither purely figurative nor simply abstract, his canvases are a visual catalog of painting techniques: foam, impasto, under-painting, everything is there for the attentive spectator to identify them.

The San Francisco artist presented his painting as a practice of resolving the space of the canvas, an exercise more in composition than in the transmission of meaning. And indeed, as in the group of paintings exhibited until Saturday August 14 at Cushion Works, Goodroad’s works resist any connection to a social or political reality. Instead, he offers viewers a chance to revel in the richness of his palette, immerse in beauty, and disconnect from the hustle and bustle of the world outside of the painting.

The exhibition begins smoothly with a pair of paintings on the first wall of the main gallery. In “Untitled (Little Blue)”, an abundantly applied cerulean field in the lower third of the painting punctuates a canvas dominated by musty peach, brown and gray. A face in profile, almost dipping into vivid blue, tries to focus, but Goodroad deliberately leaves details ambiguous.

“Untitled (Window)” by Brett Goodroad, 2020, oil on linen canvas. Goodroad is an artist from San Francisco who makes a living by driving trucks. Photo: Courtesy Cushion Works

Next to it is “Untitled (Window)”. Here we look through a window at another obscured figure at a counter. A piercing yellow in the foreground contrasts with the cloudy upper third of the canvas, distracting our attention from the form and creating a disorienting flatness in perspective. Goodroad’s use of color – the brilliant azure in “Little Blue” and the sunny yellow in “Window” – is a tactful upheaval in the balance of painting which demonstrates the artist’s interest in painting. drama evoked by the superposition and stopping of radically different colors in the same canvas.

When Goodroad can’t achieve the effects he wants from painting, he turns to his substrate. In paintings on silk on linen, the smooth, muffled quality of the surface lends softness to the plump, bodily forms in works such as “Untitled (Portrait)” (2020) and “Untitled (perineal)” (2021) . In these works, and others in the exhibition that allude to figuration, Goodroad sometimes depicts complete figures, but more often we see half-formed floating limbs and parts that are difficult for the viewer to resolve in a final form. This shift between figuration and abstraction gives an opening to these works. Without self-reflection or unobtrusive representation, the viewer can easily enter and exit the immersive images of Goodroad.

“Spring” by Brett Goodroad, 2019-20, oil on copper. Photo: Courtesy Cushion Works
“Winter” by Brett Goodroad, 2019-20, oil on copper. Photo: Courtesy Cushion Works

On the back wall of the main gallery, the diptychs “Spring” and “Winter”, both dated 2019-20, are painted in oil on copper, the shining luminescence of the metal peeking through the layers of paint, adding an ethereal dimension to them. landscapes. Goodroad’s scrupulous brushwork appears here in the faint outlines of tree shapes, etched into the canvas surface with the back of his brush.

With “Untitled (Big Green)” (2018-20), a large canvas representing lush and amorphous plants in corals, verdant greens and violets dominating the second gallery, these landscapes are particularly transporting.

“Untitled (Big Green)” by Brett Goodroad, 2018-20, oil on linen. Photo: Courtesy Cushion Works

In all three paintings, the artist’s fluid and expressive brushstrokes transport the viewer from side to side, top to bottom across the surface of the artwork.

In a 2017 essay, “Greasy Side Down” for the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art’s Open Space online publication, Goodroad said, “Painting, like the road, is a series of compositional queues. and emotion that change and change. … We wonder who will understand and what is the meaning, how can we know? In the paintings in this exhibition, Goodroad visually expresses this openness to experience, emphasizing the process of fabrication and looking at interpretation. It welcomes our tired, pandemic-weary eyes and, with art, creates a sanctuary to smell and see.

“Brett Goodroad”: Paintings. Friday 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. and by appointment. Until Saturday August 14. Cushion Works, 3320 18th St., SF Email [email protected] for details.

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