For nearly four decades, Joseph Goldberg has produced paintings of great intelligence and sumptuous beauty. Raised near Spokane, Washington, he returned to live and work in the open, semi-arid spaces of eastern Washington after building a Seattle reputation as an abstract artist working with geometric shapes in the unusual technique of encaustic painting.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Goldberg's paintings were deceptively simple arrangements of geometric motifs in watercolor on paper or oil on linen. By the mid-1970s, he began to make paintings of a more complex nature, sometimes in nonrectangular forms, but still expressing a reductive sensibility. By the early 1980s, Goldberg had fully embraced his signature medium of encaustic-a demanding and difficult method of fusing intense colors of dry pigments with layers of wax, fired by heat into a lustrous surface. The paintings of the 1980s pursued a variety of motifs abstracted from architecture and landscape, including a series of irregular, banner-like works of shapes within similar shapes. At the same time, Goldberg was producing paintings and drawings of the highly varied Washington landscape and of his travels through the Southwest and Europe. As his work progressed through the 1990s, this expansive vision of the natural world embraced an increasingly larger scope of imagery.
Goldberg's development as an artist has been enriched by his travels through ancient Roman ruins and the Greek revival manors of rural Sussex, England, as well as by his studies of Hopi, Anasazi, Navajo, and Zuni civilizations. This history emerges in the form of representational architectural details, landscape impressions, and cultural references. His more recent work is focused on Eastern Washington and its landscape of dramatic gorges, prominent ridges, and desolate fields of sage and sand. The paintings since 2000 have often returned to the severity of his earliest work, now filtered through the artist's keen sense of the art that came before him and of the grandeur of nature surrounding him. Whether painting the space between stars in the dark skies of Eastern Washington or the expansive white ground between rural detritus abandoned at the edges of a snow-covered field, Goldberg has imbued his paintings with mystery and meaning.
An essay by New York-based poet Nathan Kernan examines Goldberg's oeuvre and explores the role of poetry in the artist's life and work. In her interview with Goldberg, Seattle Post-Intelligencer critic Regina Hackett considers more personal aspects of the artist's life.