"Your personality has many different aspects, and you need to find out what they are. It's a part of self-examination," says Cliff Benjamin. It's a California ethos (remember "finding yourself"?) for a home-grown nonconformist.
So far, the Many Faces of Benjamin have turned to art--painting, curating, teaching and, most recently, sales. As director of the Mark Moore Gallery at Santa Monica's Bergamot Station, Benjamin specializes in the unexpected; the gallery showcases artistic innovators from around the world and startling local choices such as Russ Meyer.
Russ Meyer? Yes, that Russ Meyer. A recent show of the auteur responsible for B-movie classics such as "Faster Pussycat, Kill, Kill" is among Benjamin's favorites. "Earlier in my career, I worked with very cerebral people like Ed Ruscha and Vito Acconci," he says. "I decided I wanted to work with people who were younger than I was, or people like Russ Meyer. Everyone in the world has lifted from Russ."
As it happens, it's the pop-culture aesthetic of underground visionaries such as Meyer and Andy Warhol--who introduced America's masses to the look of bikers, rock 'n' rollers and petty criminals traditionally marginalized by the high-culture world--that informs Benjamin's style choices: leather, vinyl or denim jeans; close-cut slacks; heavy boots; tight T-shirts and form-fitting sport shirts; and big, dark shades.