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Exhibition focuses on Karl Benjamin's intensive exploration of color relationships through compositional structure
Karl Benjamin, #14, 1977, 1977. Oil on canvas, 50 x 72 1/2 inches.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA.- Brian Gross Fine Art is presenting Karl Benjamin: Selected Paintings 1967-1978. A major Southern California painter and one of the original Hard-edge abstract painters, the exhibition focuses on Benjamin’s intensive exploration of color relationships through compositional structure. The exhibition will be on view through May 8, 2021.

An intuitive painter, Karl Benjamin (1925-2012) was deeply interested in the expressive possibilities created by combining and shaping color. In works such as #14 and #17 (both 1977) Benjamin employed fuchsias, blues, greens, and reds as narrow stripes of contrasting colors that vibrate with intensity. In #3 (1969) Benjamin divided the canvas into irregular polygons, their broad areas of red, orange, yellow and blue interlocking to form a composition without end. Works like #1 (1970) are visually charged, gridded arrangements of right triangles, whose complex arrangements of color both imply and subvert a sense of perceptual depth. Benjamin’s use of bold pattern and color, combined with the deceptively flat surfaces of his paintings, give each work a unique optical presence.

In 1959, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art organized a landmark exhibition entitled “Four Abstract Classicists” presenting works by four Los Angeles artists: Karl Benjamin, Lorser Feitelson, Frederick Hammersley and John McLaughlin. The show’s curator coined the term “hard edge painting,” noting their similar stylistic concerns. Their works are characterized by clean edged, conjoined geometric forms rendered in flat color and occupying the entire picture plane. Benjamin’s work has been featured in numerous important exhibitions, including Birth of the Cool: California Art, Design and Culture at Midcentury, which debuted at the Orange County Museum of Art in 2007 and later travelled to the Oakland Museum and other U.S. venues; A Conversation With Color: Karl Benjamin, Paintings 1953 – 1995 at the Claremont Museum of Art, in 2009; and Pacific Standard Time: Crosscurrents in L.A. Painting and Sculpture 1945-1970 at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, in 2011.

Karl Benjamin was born in Chicago, IL in 1925. He received his BA from University of Redlands, Redlands, CA and his MFA at Claremont Graduate School, Claremont, CA. He was awarded the National Endowment for the Arts Grant for Visual Arts in both 1983 and 1989. For many years, Benjamin taught painting at Pomona College and Claremont Graduate School, and was later named Professor Emeritus. He died in Los Angeles, CA in 2012.

Karl Benjamin’s work has been featured in numerous museum exhibitions and is included in the public collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art, NY; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC; Art Institute of Chicago; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Norton Simon Museum of Art, Pasadena, CA; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Oakland Museum of California; Berkeley Art Museum, CA; San Jose Museum of Art, CA; Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego, CA; Palm Springs Art Museum, CA; Seattle Art Museum, WA; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX; Denver Art Museum, CO; Baltimore Museum of Art, MD; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN; and the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, CT, among others. This is Brian Gross Fine Art’s fourth exhibition of Karl Benjamin’s work.

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