Leon Benn at Carter & Citizen

Painting continues to be relevant. If one has any doubt on this subject one need only witness the strong and mysterious paintings by Leon Benn currently on exhibit at Carter & Citizen in Culver City through October 12th, 2013.

Leon Benn, Supraspinatus, 2013. dye, plaster, and mixed media on linen. 22 × 19 inches

There are a multitude of qualities on exhibit. Three elements that Benn has firmly in his grasp are skill, scale and subtlety. This triumvirate secures relevance for painting’s lasting legacy.

Benn’s technical skills with the handling of paint are easily more associated with that of an older artist. His brushstrokes seem at once controlled and improvisational. Both emotional destinations are confident though. And whether the results are abstract or representational, the effect is captivating. The gestures accrue over time as well which leads one to suspect an outline of intentions. Just then pigment bleeds and joins in a velocity which undermines forethought.

Leon Benn, Blue Bikini study 2013. oil, collaged linen, and dye on linen. 17 × 15 inches

Blue Bikini Study depicts a woman hoisting a bottle to her lips. The figure is seen from behind and the bottle and the bikini are the same crimson red hue. The figure is set against a chalky blue that Yves Klein would have been proud to call his own. The ground on which she stands are three or four brushstrokes of a lighter blue executed from left to right. Her shadow is the absence of this lighter blue. The economy of execution is further emphasized by the entire vignette being parenthetically bound, right and left, by the exposed raw linen on which the painting hovers.  Underpainting of iridescent colors peek around the edges. The entire painting is 17 x 15 inches but packs a wallop of a far larger painting.


Leon Benn, Whiz With, 2013. acylic, collage, and dye on canvas. 22 × 19 inches

Which brings us neatly to scale. The gallery itself is intimate which is refreshing in the landscape of galleries that make you ache for roller-skates rather than art. Paintings, when done well, can have a large impact without being necessarily large. Here Benn performs another bit of alchemy. Benn’s paintings are intimate without falling pray to being precious, no mean feat that!

Leon Benn, Island, They Float, 2013. oil and mixed media on canvas. 28 × 24 inches

Lastly, Benn traffics in subtlety not often seen these days. Some of his compositions are abstract. Some are representational. When depicting something, Benn’s paintings are approximate rather than illustrative. Evocations rather than definitions. When Benn veers abstract, the paintings are unapologetic. By this I mean they seem satisfied/content with texture, form and elemental compositional appeal. Whiz With has the touch of Milton Avery and the mysticism of Robert Motherwell. Blue Bikini Study has the eroticism of early Eric Fischle. Supraspinatus has the corporeal tactility and compositional tropes of Francis Bacon. Tell me another artist whose evocations can be that diverse without being schizophrenic. The exhibition is a strong indication of a powerful new voice in our midst.

Leon Benn at Carter & Citizen, 2648 La Cienega Ave. (not Blvd.), Los Angeles, CA 90034 through October 12th, 2013

-Mario M. Muller, Los Angeles, September 13th, 2013

also by Mario M. Muller

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