The exhibit of Gladys Goldstein's work at Artshowcase reminds me of the line, "When you're hot you're hot, when you're not you're not."
Goldstein is nothing if not erratic. When her abstractions succeed, they're a delight to behold. When they don't, they're frustratingly disappointing. It's not as if they're someone else's pictures or as if they needed work; they're unmistakably hers, they're unquestionably finished and they're clearly professional -- but they somehow just don't make it. Happily, there's more than enough good Goldstein in this exhibit to make it worthwhile.
She is at her best here in some of her acrylics: those in which she combines geometric and organic forms, subtle use of color and a reserved but sensuous touch to create graceful, somewhat veiled, almost seductive effects.
The grays that inhabit the shapes of "Brookflow" offer lyrical variations on a theme, and when they part to reveal a layer of brighter colors underneath it is as if we glimpse a world far enough removed to keep the impressions symphonic rather than cacophonous.
The bands of small shapes on a sea of white in "Central City" offer a suggestion of landscape, and these and the other forms that bob around the picture's surface create broken rhythms that recall the fragmented life of the city. But the work doesn't need the urban reference; without the title it would be equally satisfying.
"Night Star," with its band of colors, some escaping into the black above, also works as pure abstraction; it would be as pleasing called "Colors in Black" or simply nothing at all. But the ,, black does have its own identity, its particular character: It's not a black of evil or death, but one of enticing mystery, or embracing sleep.
At her best here, as in these and other works, Goldstein achieves a balance of forces at once elegant and fetching. This refined sensibility is also at work in her drawings, but in some of the other works it curiously seems to desert her.
In "In October" she goes for the gold and silver and winds up somewhere close to glitzy rather than autumnal (or anything else really satisfactory). The geometric "Walking Tall" is not only largely hard-edged but downright harsh. A group of works made of paper pulp ("Arcos," "Arcanum," etc.) are affected and somewhat vacant; they pretend to more than they deliver.
That's not to say that Goldstein, even when disappointing, is a bad artist. She works at a level that always deserves respect. But at her best the level is a lot higher than that.
Gladys Goldstein Where: Artshowcase, 336 N. Charles St.
When: Through Oct. 26.