Michael Goldberg in front of similar works at his studio in 1982. Polaroid by Robert Vogele

Living with Vigor

Michael Goldberg and Robert Vogele

Lot 119 photographed in Goldberg's studio

Michael Goldberg conceived of art as a dialogue, not only between the artist and his vision but also between the artwork and the viewer. His early paintings speak volumes, layering texture and images, swathes of paint brushed, scraped and spread on the canvas, energetic marks that sound like jazz and look like a busy New York street seen from above. In his later works, the architectural compositions start to show through; paint is applied with no less vigor, but channeled with more supervision, transforming frenzied lines into muscular forms, bursting with conversation.

Michael Goldberg 1924–2008

Michael Goldberg defies classification. Often described as a second generation Abstract Expressionist; the Bronx-born artist began carving out his place in the canon when he started painting in 1939 at the age of fifteen. He had finished high school a year earlier and enrolled in classes at City College. His foray into collegiate life was short lived, however. More interested in the Jazz clubs near campus, Goldberg started skipping classes and promptly dropped out. At the age of seventeen, like many of the leading artists of the time, he began studying under Hans Hofmann. After the outbreak of World War II, Goldberg enlisted in the United States Army as a paratrooper and earned a purple heart for his service—an honor befitting of the man described by so many as immensely generous, gregarious and formidable. Upon returning to the states, Goldberg continued to study under Hofmann and participated in Leo Castelli’s groundbreaking Ninth Street Show in 1951. A regular at the Cedar Bar in New York, he was known for having involved conversations about painting and for telling epic tales from his past. Needless to say, he befriended many artists who also frequented the famed watering hole including poet Frank O’Hara who would become a lifelong friend and occasional collaborator.

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