Bruce Goff (1904-1982) was one of our most important mid-century American architects. He was a follower of Frank Lloyd Wright but a steadfast purveyor of his own unique aesthetic. Goff is perhaps most famous for the nautilus-shaped Bavinger House (Norman, OK) and the crystalline Price House (Bartlesville, OK). Though his architecture is widely published and critically acclaimed, few people know Goff was also an accomplished and prolific painter. Goff created paintings as exercises to free his mind. Usually working with tempera on wet construction paper, he would start with serendipitous runs of random color. Treating these amorphous shapes as a given from nature, he would bring them under control with mixed media: gold paint, colored pencils, geometric stencils.
Recently I was sorting through some of my old slides as the start of a long-delayed project to convert them to digital format. (Who even owns a slide projector anymore?) Tucked in with the thousands of architectural slides in my collection was a treasure trove of Bruce Goff paintings. These images were given to me years ago by a Goff apprentice, John Bowles. I hadn't looked at these slides in years, but I am as impressed now as I was when I first saw them. Goff's paintings are abstract, but they span a variety of styles that could stand proudly with the works of the most acclaimed twentieth century artists. There are even a few rare examples of non-abstract figures (from a series called "The Drunken Boat" inspired by the Arthur Rimbaud poem) which demonstrate Goff's charming illustrative skill. A couple of paintings contain Goff's squircle invention (a square morphing into a circle). Here are a few of my favourite Goff paintings from this collection.