5/7/10 6:04 PM
Abstraction rarely comes from nowhere. On the contrary, one form of the verb “to abstract” is transitive: we abstract something from something else. This is true of the best philosophical theories as well as the best abstract art, from Kandinsky to Mondrian and beyond. A parallel act is part of art’s reception, when we look at abstract work and try to find recognizable forms. Such is the case with Rachel Goodwin’s work, which may or may not derive from real-world observation but certainly connotes it in the viewer’s eyes, at least this viewer’s. Red ovals edged with white are so many painted toenails or so many veiled women—sideways that is. A branchy silver shape is a partial skeleton or a multi-pronged insect. These are some of the simpler compositions in her body of colorful cutouts, and they are also some of the strongest. Other more complicated pieces suffer from confusing the mind and the eye as they try to sort out just what is going on between shapes and colors and printed paper. That said, it’s instructive to view experimentation like Goodwin’s, to watch as an artist sorts out an abstract language all her own, testing which combinations and densities register and which don’t.