Sidney Goodman is among the most conceptually in-dependent and stylistically unique of the diverse group-ing of artists who have been labeled the New Realist painters. The New Realists differ from traditional realists in that they are very much the outgrowth of the Abstract Expressionist experience of the 1950s, and for over twenty years Goodman has been among the most innovative figures at the cutting edge of this movement. Yet, until recently Goodman has been less widely known than Philip Pearlstein, Alfred Leslie and some of his other peers in the field. This oversight may be partially due to his preference for keeping somewhat removed from the hectic New York art scene and instead remain-ing in his hometown of Philadelphia. But the major contributory factory has no doubt been Goodman’s own individuality as an artist.
Since Goodman’s first New York exhibition, art reviewers have admired his paintings, but those same reviewers have often fumbled in their attempts to neatly categorize his work. Goodman’s drawings have likewise been held in the highest esteem, and Goodman is justifiably deemed to be among the most masterful of contemporary draftsmen. In content, both his paintings and his drawings exhibit ambiguous elements of an allegorical nature that is more akin to the traditions of Expressionism than to the approaches taken by most of the other artists who are classified as New Realists.’ His art has gone through evolutionary changes but has been marked continuously by a deeply personalized emotional involvement which has manifested itself even in works that were produced during his most objectively analytical period. Goodman’s art is concerned with a phenomenological analysis of both objective and subjective reality expressed from within the context of both his own individual perceptions and his own personal iconography, and it is the contrast and melding of these seemingly opposing yet often complementary view-points of reality that make his own brand of realism unique and difficult for critics to pigeonhole.
Sidney Goodman was born in South Philadelphia in 1936, and he is in many respects a typical product of that specific Philadelphia community. He is an amiable and unpretentious person with a somewhat wry sense of humor. He is also the type of man who is just as comfortable attending a raucous sporting event and cheering for his team as he is in the solitude of his artist’s studio. He can brandish a street-wise attitude of playfulness, and yet he has developed and retained a serious sensitivity toward the people and environment around him.
During most of his life, Goodman has lived in the ethnic mix and urban hubbub of South Philadelphia which, like the Lower East Side of New York, is famous as the maturation ground for generations of creative and talented people. His father was a small businessman and his mother was at one time an actress on the Yiddish stage. They were American immigrants and, like so many immigrants before them, they settled in South Philadelphia. From a multi-cultural heritage Goodman acquired a measure of European influences which he feels have colored his art. However, like Philadelphia, Goodman’s art is decidedly American in spirit, though some of the cultural roots are grounded in a mixture of European inspirations.
Goodman is also very much the product of a youth coming of age in America during the unsettled and tension-packed years of the late 1940s and 1950s. In his early years, Goodman experienced several close contacts with death. Combined with the indelible emotional imprint of the Holocaust, his early experiences would have substantial repercussions upon his art. The 1950s were also the era of the Cold War, the anti-hero movement and the McCarthy investigations. It was a time when suddenly the good appeared to be bad and the bad appeared to be good. Many preconceived notions about the world in which we live were called into question by an increasingly large number of concerned individuals. Just as Freudian psychology had been the social dialogue of the 1920s, so reading and talking about Existentialism became the popular intellectual and collegiate pastime during the 1950s; Goodman’s art would develop subject to that particular philosophical influence. As a youth Goodman had been something of a (continued…)