And Now What?!
Greenwold’s meticulously detailed, psychologically complex paintings often vary dramatically in style and scale, however his cast of “characters” remains consistent. The same narrative thread can be drawn throughout almost his entire oeuvre. He does not look far to find subjects to act out his inner torment. Family, friends, and lovers all figure prominently in his work. Interpersonal relationships are Greenwold’s primary interest, hence the “dramatic action” often unfolds either inside or immediately adjacent to a “home.”
Greenwold’s interiors are like psychodramatic funhouses rife with past traumas and current fantasies. In perhaps his most iconic work, The Sewing Room (for Barbara) (1975–1979), the artist treats that most intimate of human interactions—domestic violence. Hardly a glorification, this painting, in addition to other, more contemporary examples, such as A Magic Summer (2017), demonstrates the complexities of this type of exchange. Just as often as violence is implied, so, too, is sex. Secret Storm (1970–1971) is among the most controversial paintings of this theme–and the most often censored. The painting captures two people mid-coitus, with a third perhaps joining soon.
Yet, in the artist’s paintings, the most shocking element is not always the content but, rather, the level of precision with which Greenwold portrays these raucous scenes. His famously laborious process mirrors the emotional intensity of his paintings. Greenwold works under magnification, like a jeweler, employing the tiniest of brushes. He builds up the surfaces stroke by stroke, all the while flipping between various preparatory photographs and drawings. The result is a kind of delirious realism in which everything portrayed, however realistic, is actually composed of thousands upon thousands of beautiful abstractions.