The night of the opening of Shadows and Echoes at Ruschman Art Gallery, the artist, Neil Goodman, was understandably animated as he pointed out his cast bronze sculptures placed around the gallery. A somewhat progressive move for Ruschman, the installation of Goodman"s heady work is not readily grasped in the manner of a landscape or even a more traditional abstract painting. Goodman, though, didn"t overwhelm with art lingo, and instead, pointed out the fact that most of the pieces comprising the installation were composed of four sides. This is a neat connecting point, as each piece explores a unique variation on hard, soft, contained or open, or some combination of these. One form, for example, resembles a three-dimensional fleur de lis; another is a four-sided frame, bent. But what carries the work, ultimately, is its narrative connectedness, the thread of a line that pulls the eye from one object to the next, so that they seem relationally organic and yet maintain their individuality.
These are not emotional works of art, and yet, the interplay between tenderness and edginess in the manifestation of their variations calls for a feeling response. I saw the masculine and the feminine - and the tension between them. Some forms, though, suggest a balance between the two. But how these aspects fill the space is suggestive of several containers aware of each other"s presence, but not necessarily engaged with one another. Each piece, then, stands alone and has the potential to carry its own weight, symbolically. But if Goodman had presented the pieces in such a manner, the exhibit would have been too academically minimalist. To connect seemingly simple gestures of bronze into a complex stage set is far more compelling and makes a unique statement - any deeper symbolic relevance does not seem to be the point here.
Goodman is prominent in the Chicago art world, having placed a number of sculptures in the city"s public spaces. He teaches fine art at IU Northwest in Gary, and continues to make and exhibit his work in the Chicago area. Earlier work, such as his 1997 McCormick Place Sculpture, is of a similar disposition to Shadows and Echoes: bronze pieces fill space, in the case of the McCormick Place piece, a 90-foot wall area. Each object resembles a tool, and yet if these were tools, their functions would not be readily apparent. Instead, Goodman is suggesting a visual experience that isn"t necessarily symbolic in the psychological sense. Sometimes art is just about looking and seeing, and what we perceive remains on the surface of our field of vision. This experience is where meaning rests. Here, the shape and texture of the objects in space form the narrative.
Shadows and Echoes at Ruschman Art Gallery, 948 N. Alabama St., is on view through June 22. Call 634-3114 for gallery hours and information, or visit www.ruschmangallery.com.