© 2022 The Estate of Michael Goldberg, New York
Photo © The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, by Elie Posner

Michael Goldberg

American, 1924–2007

Monumental Engine Co.


Oil on canvas, 204 x 310 cm
Gift of Ronald Stark, New York, through the America-Israel Cultural Foundation

Goldberg was influenced in his youth by the gestural Abstract Expressionism of older artists like Kline, Still, and de Kooning, and he never abandoned that mode of painting. Goldberg hung out at the Cedar Street Tavern and with the Eighth Street Club, a discussion group founded by downtown artists in 1949. In 1951 his work made its first public appearance in the Ninth Street Show, a groundbreaking exhibition of New York’s new avant-garde organized by the club and the dealer Leo Castelli. In 1953 the Tibor de Nagy Gallery gave him his first solo show. In 1962, Goldberg moved into Mark Rothko’s old studio at 222 Bowery, finding the floor spattered with red paint from a series Rothko had made for the Four Seasons restaurant in the Seagram Building. He set out to make his own series of big, near-monochromatic red paintings, moving away from his earlier de Kooning-influenced work.

Best known for his expressive brushwork and free-association abstraction, Goldberg combined Western European painting traditions with Eastern philosophies and the cultural reservoir of postwar New York. “I’ve always felt that art comes out of art,” he said. “Art requires looking, and a little bit of selective thievery, too. You take a little bit from here and a little from there without being conscious of it.” The improvisational nature of jazz, which he admired, also influenced his work. Goldberg saw abstract painting as “the primary visual challenge of our time. It might get harder and harder to make an abstract image that’s believable, but I think that just makes the challenge greater.” Monumental Engine Co, is earthy and gritty, with dark rust-red, the color of brick or clotted blood, cut through with strong irregular stripes of white. The paint is thick and opaque, laid in strokes and splattering towards the bottom of the painting.

Adina Kamien

Artists in Action

Michael Goldberg, The Bowery Studio

Michael Goldberg and Joan Mitchell, ca. 1942-1965. Michael Goldberg papers, 1942-1981. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. https://www.si.edu/object/michael-goldberg-and-joan-mitchell:AAADCD_item_17406

Michael Goldberg was an American abstract expressionist painter and teacher known for his gestural action paintings, abstractions and still-life paintings.