When I think of Albuquerque’s preeminent art scene at the mid-twentieth century, I think of Raymond Jonson, Jack and Alice Garver, Connie Fox, Dick Kurman, Don Ivers, Bainbridge Bunting, John Tatschl, and Herb Goldman. I think of visiting UNM professor and artist Elaine de Kooning, who did as much as anyone to bring this group together, and help nudge several of them to national prominence. Almost all these artists are long gone; only their work remains. Connie Fox may be the only one still living, still active.
Herb Goldman, who died in September 2012, was one of New Mexico’s most unique and powerful artists. Goldman was born in Detroit, Michigan in 1922, and entered his chosen profession at the age of 12 when he apprenticed to Samuel A. Cashwan. He eventually traveled the world studying, making sculpture, and teaching. His large-scale works can be seen throughout this country and as far away as Africa. He is “ours” by virtue of his twenty years in Albuquerque and the art he left in the state.
After serving in the Navy during World War II, Goldman entered the University of New Mexico, where he received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree with a major in sculpture and drawing in 1949. Throughout the 1950s, he taught sculpture, ceramics, welding, drawing, and design, at UNM and privately. He worked in a great variety of materials, including terracotta, plaster concrete, terrazzo, wood, and stone. His style and forms emerged from his creative use of materials.
Although Goldman created sculptures in a number of countries and his work remains important in his genre, my own memories are more intimate: I go back six and a half decades and retrieve those afternoons on which I modeled for one of his classes at UNM. Herb’s consideration and respect for the model was unusual at a time when young women’s bodies were mostly objects to be used and abused. Other memories, of him and his wife Jane accompanying Elaine de Kooning, Connie Fox (then Boyd) and me to Juárez, México surface through a haze of years. An old photo taken of us sitting around a bar table survived somehow and has been published and republished through the years; each time it appears it returns me to those times.
What comes to mind is the sculptor’s incisive mind, his concern for other artists and support of their work. What history of Albuquerque’s 1940s and ’50s art scene has been lost because few at the time understood its importance or relevance to the cultural atmosphere of a city always less legendary than Santa Fe or Taos to the north?
Although many of Goldman’s sculptures were surprising, one of his major pieces is in Roswell. It’s called “The Henge.” The artist designed this house-sized work at the request of Don and Sally Anderson and within the context of their half-century old Roswell Artist-in-Residence Program. No one lives at The Henge. It stands as an imposing sculpture a few miles outside the city of Roswell, on Anderson family property. Without permission, it is not possible to visit the interior or even get closer than the road that runs a full acre beyond the building itself. People fortunate enough to have been inside say the blocks of negative space mirror the outer forms in particularly interesting ways. Even viewing The Henge from a distance, though, is a worthwhile experience.
Herb Goldman was one of New Mexico’s treasures.
Margaret Randall’s latest book, “I Never Left Home: Poet, Feminist, Revolutionary”
Duke University Press (2020)
In 1969, poet and activist Margaret Randall was forced underground when the Mexican government cracked down on all those who took part in the 1968 student movement. Needing to leave the country, she sent her four young children alone to Cuba while she scrambled to find safe passage out of Mexico. Randall recounts her harrowing escape and the other extraordinary stories from her life and career.
Signed copies of the memoir are available for purchase through the Albuquerque Museum Store.