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"Samson," pigment/varnish
on wood,32 x 24", 1998.


pigment/varnish on wood,
32 x 24”, 1998.

pigment/varnish on wood,
53 x 40”, 1998.

pigment/varnish on wood,
42 x 30”, 1998.


by Bill Lasarow


(Patricia Correia Gallery, Santa Monica) If his new paintings are indicative, Richard Godfrey has definitively moved away from dioramas and movie-set style special effects. On suspension too are the serial groupings that push perceptual response into a structured environment. The discreet, mid-sized works on which he currently focuses his attention dispense with the slick pyrotechnics and intellectual system-building in favor of touch, surface and, metaphorically, time.

Crucial constants remain: a vertical, retangular object within which is a centrally placed retangle; a tromp d’oeil lighting effect; and heavy varnish that pulls the contrasting areas of an image into object status. The impression is that, rather than progressing on to the next aesthetic step implied by the preceding series Godfrey is attempting to claim fresh territory without abandoning long held premises.

This does not mean, either, that the major emphasis the artist places on textural effects that are emotional in their resonance in any way marks a real departure. The object-quality of these paintings suggests a sincerely felt modernist impluse has not been abandoned. The purpose appears to be no less formalist than it has ever been. But one feels invited to contemplate the individual works in a way that previously did not appear to be the point. Not that Godfrey has adopted Zen trappings, at least not in any explicit way.

The worn and cracked surfaces serve formal and metaphorical ends that make a lot of sense given the trajectory of Godfrey’s body of work. The most heartwarming quality is that this type of personal, poetic statement offsets a lengthy flirtation with bombastic scale, finish, and complex engineering problems. One hopes he is regathering himself, as his level of ambition has always appeared to aim a little below what he seemed capable of pulling off. Deepening and refreshing the felt aspect of his chosen image, thus, not only comes across as honest, but a smart tactic. The feeling as you look at this work is one of looking back deep into the past while simultaneously seeing an impending future.

Only adding to this feeling are the many cracks and striations that appear on the painted surfaces, whether background field or rectangular object. The skin of paint literally appears to be molting. These new works, while they are not themselves especially important, movingly suggest that the best work by this artist lies ahead, and that it may be sung with a voice that believes in what he is singing.