Contributed by Jonathan Stevenson / Ben Godward is at home with bright colors and exotic shapes. The New York sculptor has for some time been producing boldly optic, resolutely asymmetrical pieces that render impressions of roiling urban excess into freewheeling mixed media, abundantly featuring foam, urethane resin, and Day-Glo hues. Much of his work’s appeal has resided in its swaggering abandon, which was no doubt derived, to some extent, from the cheerful sneer and boundless energy of the young artist. Judging by his new grabber of a show “2.5-D Realities and Tchotchkes”at Bushwick’s SLAG Gallery, Godward has lost none of the verve but some of the snideness.
It has yielded not to bland earnestness – never that – but to more controlled contemplation. Now making abstract wall-sculptures-cum-paintings, Godward has segued from his relatively loose and anarchical comfort zone to the spatial rigor of the grid. The newfound discipline evident in the visual art is rooted in an exacting process, though one that balances the finiteness of the picture plane with the freedom of liquid. Pouring the resin into a thin cavity between the two large rectangular plates in a five-sided Plexiglas box, Godward regulates the direction and density of each iteration of resin by timing his pour according to its viscosity, which varies over the course of several minutes. The results are visually striking but never incoherent.
At the same time, Godward succeeds in avoiding formulistic artmaking. Some pieces, like Casino Glow, are straightforwardly evocative, verging on referential. Others are more loosely suggestive. Paths Ahead, for example, implies without dictating the reassurance of the expected and the ominousness of the unknown, as hinted by the title. Other works are considerably more oblique. Wedged Core Convergence (Irrational Roots), say, seems purposefully mysterious and abstruse, and tends to open up the imagination instead of shepherding it. As for those tchotchkes, arrayed on a table in the center of the gallery, the small ones are oddly shaped diamonds but the big ones are all cubes, as if to recapitulate Godward’s larger shift away from impulse and towards deliberation more overtly informed by ideas.
In utilizing the pour, Godward is in the redoubtable company of Color Field painters like Helen Frankenthaler and Morris Louis. It’s a grounding kinship, but that additional half a dimension enshrines his own hybrid contribution. While his new work certainly marks a departure, it is a wholly organic development that relates back to earlier work and is the product of neither flailing towards distinctiveness nor surrender to safety, but rather of unabashed evolution. Godward probably wouldn’t be so stodgy as to call the salient quality “maturity,” and that’s a good thing. Even as he moves forward with resolution and purpose, his native brashness remains happily intact.
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