Written by: Nick Roth
When I lived downtown, I would often take Carlisle on my commute to work. Heading South down on the street, a couple of blocks north of Gibson, I would pass this very modernist wall sculpture installed on a plain block wall. I originally noticed it not only because it was a fantastic looking piece, but because it contrasted so much with the rest of its surroundings. The larger area is no stranger to midcentury design, though the neighborhood this sculpture is in includes an eclectic mix of regional, modern, and contemporary houses. Some of the older buildings show signs of neglect. Every time I drove by, I took a second to appreciate the sculpture but never put more thought into its story. Its random location made me think it was a lone survivor of urban decay and that its origins were long lost to time. While doing some research for a personal project, I fell down a rabbit hole and found myself scrolling through the July/August 1964 volume of The New Mexico Architect. I had selected this issue completely at random and as I was skimming the pages, a picture of this exact sculpture caused me to immediately stop. Titled Low-Rise Apartments and written by Dr. Bainbridge Bunting, Harvard grad and then architectural historian at the UNM Art Department, the article begins as a scathing critique of “luxury” low-rise apartments proliferating around Albuquerque at the time that were poorly designed and cheaply constructed. Bunting then pointed to a few well-designed exceptions and what the architects had done that made them exceptional. One such exception was the apartment building I had been driving past for years that bore this sculpture. The building is a three-unit, single-floor construction designed by architect Robert Walters. Walters, himself an accomplished artist with paintings in multiple museums, was at the time a private architect and would eventually become a professor at the UNM School of Architecture. The cement sculpture accompanying this building was an accent piece on an exterior, street-facing wall flanking the building’s parking lot. The article revealed that the sculpture was created by none other than Albuquerque’s own Herb Goldman, an accomplished abstract sculptor and designer of the recent Roswell, NM addition to the National Register of Historic Places, The Henge. Goldman and Walters were close friends, so it seems logical that these two artists would support each other’s work. Normally, Goldman was quite vigilant about documenting his work, but this sculpture seems to have been left out of his portfolio. According to his daughter, Lisa Goldman, this work was created during some major life events when Goldman was not living in Albuquerque. Luckily, Dr. Bunting’s article kept this attribution from being lost to time and the Goldman family can celebrate the sculpture being still on view. It also seems Dr. Bunting’s assessment of this building was correct. It has stood the test of time amid a sea of deteriorating homes and apartment complexes. If you find yourself in the Nob Hill or University area or are interested in seeking it out, I encourage you to drive by 1509 Carlisle Blvd SE. And for all interested in reading the original article, it is available here. Finally, if you’re not familiar with the works of Herb Goldman, visit his portfolio at herbgoldman.com or watch his daughter, Lisa Goldman, lead a presentation about his legacy for the Albuquerque Historical Society here.