Betty Goodwin at Sable Castelli Gallery (33 Hazleton), to November 20. 416-961-0011. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
Betty Goodwin's images, with their elongated arms, and faces screaming silently or rubbed out, mass claustrophobically in knots that could be a riot, a dance or a group drowning.
The figures are often framed by blunt sculptural elements, or hover precipitously over ledges encrusted with nails and metal debris.
This combination of drawing, painting and sculpture has been pared down and distilled into a style that is unmistakably her own. It's the work of a master hitting her stride.
Goodwin has often cited her reliance on process, and it shows. Each piece is its own visual koan, combining figurative and abstract elements in a way that is powerfully unified. Her organic approach is what makes the work so arresting. These works juxtapose basic elements settled upon after a lifetime in her studio.
Much has been said about the anxious or tragic elements in Goodwin's work. But just as much could be said about the simple elements she contrasts and offsets them with. There is always a balance between emotional rawness and something tougher and more concrete.
In Chaos Below, a tall, vertical canvas shows a cloud hovering beneath constellations; it's pierced with black, splotchy holes that seem to be spewing dirt or insects. Next to the canvas is a shovel, part of its blade neatly cut out. These elements of sky and chaotic earth are grounded by the presence of the shovel, wounded as it is. Perhaps she's saying that the only way to endure chaos is to dig through it.