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Abstract Expressionism

Robert Goodnough: Subject Matter of the Artist

Subject Matter of the Artist: Robert Goodnough, 1950-1965
Edited with an Introduction by Helen A. Harrison, Foreward by Irving Sandler, Soberscove Press

Cover featuring Robert Goodnough, Horses III, 1960, Collection of Milette and Haag Sherman, Houston, Texas, courtesy of Langs De Wal Gallery, New York © Estate of Robert Goodnough

Subject Matter of the Artist: Robert Goodnough, 1950-1965, a new book published by Soberscove Press, is a time capsule of sorts. It unearths a lost primary source, penned by a significant artist, one that sheds first-person light on some of the most iconic artists of the New York School. It also conveys, through the enthusiasm of its author, a palpable sense of the excitement of a painter consciously aware he is in the midst of a significant avant garde moment.

Irving Sandler, in the foreward, describes the ethos of this moment (1949-1950) and its influence on Goodnough. It was a “lively avant-garde ferment,” Sandler writes, “in which [Goodnough] was introduced to the latest and most vital art and ideas, and all the fresh options in contemporary art.” (p.9)

As a graduate student and protege of Tony Smith at NYU, Goodnough embraced these ideas. He sought out avant garde painters, not only making the acquaintance of key artists of the New York School, but also visiting their studios and interviewing them for a research paper. This important, nearly unknown piece of writing, titled Subject Matter of the Artist: An Analysis of Contemporary Subject Matter in Painting as Derived from Interviews with those Artists Referred to as the Intrasubjectivists, is the centerpiece of this new collection.

Goodnough is known primarily as a second generation Abstract Expressionist, the generation that included Joan Mitchell, Grace Hartigan, Sam Francis, and Norman Bluhm among others. He also penned the seminal ArtNews article, “Pollock Paints a Picture,” a first hand account of Jackson Pollock’s novel drip painting technique (also included in this new volume - along with an interesting new revelation about that text).