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THE ART GALLERIES

La Cienega Area

July 04, 1986|SUZANNE MUCHNIC

For all the vibrant color and crisp graphic impact of Karl Benjamin's hard-edge abstraction, there's something of a Minimalist in him. Few artists have amassed so much artistic mileage from a few geometric shapes. Though often accused of painting the same thing over and over--as Minimal musicians and artists are thought to repeat the same configurations with numbing regularity--Benjamin extracts surprising variety from limited means, persistently exploring ways to use and subvert the grid.

As in a current show of paintings from 1984 and '85 plus some new painted cubes, Benjamin fashions square modules that are divided by, say, a triangle and an arc, then rotates the modules as he constructs larger units that eventually lock together. Some of the arcs join in circles, triangles become diamonds, and square modules form T-shaped sections or rectangles.

The results fairly vibrate off the walls. Supercharged with intense reds, violets, greens and oranges, these paintings are constructed with color forms that look like solid blocks. They butt up against one another in jarring junctures, but they also fit together so neatly that they produce a rhythmic continuity rather than an abrasive clash. Rather like musical compositions, the paintings rise and swell over a constant beat.

The cubes, standing on one point in triangular plexiglass stands, are less satisfying. Though skillfully composed with each painted plane leading into the next, these sculptural pieces tend to be seen one module at a time and quickly read as decor instead of richly varied art. (Ruth Bachofner Gallery, 804 N. La Cienega Blvd., to Aug. 2.)

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