Geoffrey Dorfman: Antikythera at Elizabeth Moss Galleries

Geoffrey Dorfman, Antikythera 1, 2022, Oil on Canvas

Geoffrey Dorfman: Antikythera
Elizabeth Moss Galleries

100 Fore Street, Suite B

Portland, Maine 04101
January 27 – March 5, 2023

By STEPHEN WOZNIAK, February 2023

“The work of art is born of the artist in a mysterious and secret way. From him, it gains life and being. Nor is its existence casual and inconsequential, but it has a definite and purposeful strength, alike in its material and spiritual life.”

Wassily Kandinsky

“The tide goes out imperceptibly. The boulders show and seem to rise up and the ocean recedes, leaving little pools, leaving wet weed and moss and sponge, iridescence and brown and blue and China red. On the bottoms lie the incredible refuse of the sea, shells broken and chipped and bits of skeleton, claws, the whole sea bottom a fantastic cemetery on which the living scamper and scramble.”

— John Steinbeck

Antikythera is a remote and idyllic Greek isle that most would dream of to while away their remaining days upon this earth. Its perimeter, paved in heavenly white sands, flanked by the broad blue Aegean Sea, punctuated by bubbling tide pools and populated by only a few dozen inhabitants, looks like both the very beginning and end of life as we know or could imagine it. It’s no wonder that early twentieth century deep-sea divers discovered key pieces of the ancient Antikythera astronomical device along its coast, which could determine such monumental information as planetary placement, moon phases and even the location for the Olympic games every four years.

The notion and practical application of this device inspired artist Geoffrey Dorfman to evaluate and materialize the ideas and discoveries that have often flooded the minds and stirred the souls of metaphysicians, astronomers and philosophers over the centuries. A key point of examination includes Dorfman’s interest in defining a formal, finite reality in what is the vast, unevenly expanding universe. “There are local contractions everywhere: stars, planets, galaxies, and black holes that will exist for uncountable eons. I notice something similar in my work. Expansion is not a steady state, but rather an unpredictable, and, at times, even spasmodic one,” Dorfman explains.

When you look at the works of Dorfman, you can see the tug and tussle between the formed and formless, the center and periphery, the light and dark – and other key contrasts, even beyond the binary, that ultimately render the work whole. The emergence of elegant, amorphous, primordial forms in his paintings – loose circles, squares, triangles and rectangles that are often reduced in Constructivism and Suprematism – provide more of an interactive, moving experience over time than present allusive narrative themes. To Dorfman, painting “is not so much an assemblage of lines, shapes and colors, as a balance of forces” that largely “need to reach agreement with each other” and, when culminating in a painting, “must appear as an entirety.”

Installation view, Geoffery Dorfman, Elizabeth Moss Galleries

In Dorfman’s solo exhibition at Elizabeth Moss Galleries in Portland, a gorgeous, florid, gesticulating painting, Antikythera 12, oil on canvas, gives us a just-off-center, glowing, almost motherly ellipse on a mottled ground of rich burnt umbers, gray-greens and innumerable, impossible-to-describe strokes, skeins and dabs of color. Smaller suspended circles, slices, squiggles and even some 7-sided, spigot handle-shaped stars float away from the larger, golden, fractured central body, careening towards the edge of the contained square frame. It’s as if someone hand-painted the planets in a galaxy not-so-far away and shined a bright kaleidoscopic light across their path, connecting the space between their trajectories, giving them history, union and perhaps even an origin story.

Another very different delight in the exhibition is the painting Antikythera 15, oil on canvas. Here, we get even more color and mark making. The painting is covered in huge swaths of watery red over geometric collisions and strenuous staccatos of blue strokes that lap around brusque, yet active outlines of pie shapes, compass points and huge gears that were likely revealed when the Antikythera device was re-examined in detail by scientists. This painting feels like a celebration of dense activity, as well as a loose record of the trade tools that help us define the discrete limits Dorfman seeks in his work.

Geoffrey Dorfman, Antikythera 14

Antikythera 8 and Antikythera 9, both oil on canvas, feel like the most sophisticated pieces in the show; not only because of their circle-within-circle hubs that harbor tiny worlds worth closer inspection, but also because of the way the artist densely covers the space around these oases; creating mystery with surprisingly luminous taupe and pink bubblegum backgrounds, which float, drift and slowly vaporize within the painting – something that makes you realize they may not be backgrounds at all. 

While Dorfman presents a few murkier, mired but equally strong pieces, like Antikythera 1 and Antikythera 2, among the seventeen canvases in the gallery, the overall feel of the installed show gives us uplifting life cycles to delight in, heavenly bodies to discover and interplanetary movements to join.

Geoffrey Dorfman, Antikythera 10

It is clear that Dorfman indirectly pays homage to work of the twentieth century abstract greats – from Malevich, Kandinsky and Lissitzky to Hofmann, DeKooning and Mitchell. Yet, to me, Dorfman does something distinct and different: he unpacks accessible forms that give life to the ground we walk upon here on earth, to the water we swim through in the seas and to the night sky above that ignites our imagination, touching our soul and affirming the value of our finite position within the infinite.

Dorfman is among the few artists today that play the great late modernist game of abstraction well. By keeping the songbook, while changing the key, he forges new personal discoveries through the forms, like jazz standards played and heard anew by both artists and listeners upon every live show.

Dorfman’s solo painting exhibition, Antikythera, is on view through March 5th at Elizabeth Moss Galleries in Portland, Maine. WM


Stephen Wozniak

Stephen Wozniak is a visual artist, writer, and actor based in Los Angeles. His work has been exhibited in the Bradbury Art Museum, Cameron Art Museum, Leo Castelli Gallery, and Lincoln Center. He has performed principal roles on Star Trek: EnterpriseNCIS: Los Angeles, and the double Emmy Award-nominated Time Machine: Beyond the Da Vinci Code. He co-hosted the performing arts series Center Stage on KXLU radio in Los Angeles and guest hosts Art World: The Whitehot Magazine of Contemporary Art podcast in New York City. He earned a B.F.A. from Maryland Institute College of Art and attended Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. To learn more, go to: and Follow Stephen on Instagram at @stephenwozniakart and @thestephenwozniak.

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