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Addis Goldman on Antagonism, Politics & His Foggy Paintings

On a recent visit to Red Hook, we met Seattle-born Addis Goldman, a young artist whose description of his artwork alone will impress any art cynic. Goldman, 25, works out of the now disbanded Still House Group building, where he produces thoughtful, quiet and cunning works.


Goldman, who is not afraid to use pink, combines his literary sensibility with abstraction very much like one of his idols, Richard Aldrich. He wants his paintings to “complicate” the viewer, and they do just that.


After admiring his works, we sat down with Goldman to chat about his background, politics, and why he credits his professors as his biggest influences.


Art Zealous: Hometown?

Addis Goldman: Seattle, WA


AZ: Morning routine?

AG: Wake up at 7:30-8am, read some news, eat, make a list of what needs to be done, do it.


AZ: Zodiac sign?

AG: Virgo



AZ: You work out of old The Still House Group building, tell us about that.

AG: I worked as an assistant for The Still House Group. They recently disbanded as a group, and I got a studio space in their Red Hook space after working for them and needing a studio space. So, I don’t work “out of” the Still House, because they’re a group of artists that I am certainly not formally part of. But some of them are my friends, and I work with them and close to them.



AZ: Tell us about your newest artworks

AG: My newest works are all fairly large, abstract paintings. They provoke a sense of antagonism between the classical and studied, and the childlike and de-skilled. Neutral colors provide a cerebral, quiet, figurative and sculptural backdrop for these line strategies to work against each other, producing a sense of innocence and exuberance, formality, and seriousness.

Fresh Torture, 2016, courtesy of artist


AZ: What are you hoping to achieve in your paintings?

AG: I want to achieve a complication of thinking. I don’t want a narrative operation. I don’t want a representational objective painting. I don’t want paintings about paint, or about process. I don’t want paintings about concepts. I want paintings themselves to be the subject matter. I want paintings that bring my drawing background to the fore, and to have drawing strategies be set against the serenity of quiet palettes. I want classical gestures to enhance more sculptural structures, and to have de-skilled strategies parody seriousness.



AZ: Your background is in political science, how does that affect the way you create?

AG: I think I come to painting asking the question, “How can paintings complicate thinking, in an oblique, literary, poetic descriptive way?” I don’t look to paintings for clarification about politics or social theory, or for explanations, because I think the task of the painter has been exaggerated, misidentified, and stretched too thin. I read about those things. Pictures are hardly worth a thousand words. The cultural/identity politics and entrepreneurial zeitgeist of the day demands this of every artist, that they can be a jack of all trades, and that their work accommodates every field of cultural demand, that their paintings have an explicit operation. You want to be political. Go canvas or be an organizer. Get a city official elected. Be a lawyer and represent immigrant workers.  I’m not saying art shouldn’t be political. The more the merrier, of course. I’m not saying either that paintings should be about art for art’s sake, or for decoration, or for some cult of beauty dandyism. I just think that artists become political as a response to a cultural demand for them to be so, and not out of a natural desire to instrumentalize their art for political ends. But, I think that paintings should garner poetic, witty description, and not be beholden to some explicit explanation or operation.



AZ: Do you listen to anything as you create?

AG: Lectures, stupid tv shows, The Clash, Beethoven, silence.



AZ: Is there one question that you wish would be asked more of artists nowadays?

AG: “What art do you not enjoy?” “Who are your least favorite artists?”



AZ: You talk about your professors quite often, are they some of your biggest influences? If not, who is?

AG: Painting professors know how to poeticize the language of painterly strategy. The more they’ve read, the more they can equip you with the language to describe the painting. Everything provides an influence, from Russian literature, shitty movies, lofty classical music. Mostly, just looking at other paintings. Vuillard. Richard Aldrich. Sean Scully. Patricia Treib.



AZ: You frequently mention “hiding” or concealment in your artworks, seems to be an important strategy to you, talk to us more about that.

AG: I like paintings that visualize a betrayal of discrete strategies. I like paintings that seem like they have something to hide, a witty secret, a dark past that has been covered up with a beautiful arrangement.



AZ: There’s a lot of grays and pinks in your artwork, you called gray a “true color?”

AG: Muted colors are quiet and provoke us to think. They don’t provide ecstatic emotional experience. They are like screens for thought. They are like fog, atmospheric, contemplative, cerebral, interior. The sun is active, emotional, happy. I want foggy paintings.



AZ: You keep saying, “humanize abstraction,” elaborate on that.

AG: Using a gestural line learned from a life of figure drawing lends to color field abstraction a sense of the body, and signifies a kind of humanism. This is important to me, in order to avoid any standard distinction between abstraction and figuration and to not make wallpaper or postcards.



AZ: Your use of lines is done so well, where does that come from?

AG: Years of practice. I went to private schools and public schools, and always focused heavily on classical drawing.

Collateral Atavism, 2016, courtesy of artist


AZ: You seem to be a literary person, does literature ever influence your work?

AG: Good writing is good editing. A good painting requires concision. It requires saying what you want to say with the least amount of excess noise. That is my process of painting. Editing.



AZ: What do you mean when you call your work “thinking paintings”?

AG: I don’t look to paintings for excitement or pop-colored hyperactivity. I like paintings that are quiet, that provoke thought, that rely on interiority and cogitation.



AZ: What’s next for you?

AG: More painting, more writing, more thinking, more experience.


Follow Addis on instagram.