Critics’ Picks

Will Benedict, Stop and Frisk, 2015, offset poster, 55 1/4 x 39 1/2".

Will Benedict, Stop and Frisk, 2015, offset poster, 55 1/4 x 39 1/2".

Los Angeles

Will Benedict

Overduin & Co.
6693 Sunset Boulevard
September 13–October 17, 2015

“Bad Weather” is a riff on work Will Benedict did for the 2015 Ljubljana Biennial of Graphic Arts, which treated the story of biologist Tyrone Hayes. A professor at the University of California, Berkeley, Hayes's life and work were sabotaged by Swiss biotech firm Syngenta after he published research indicating that firm’s herbicides were carcinogenic. Benedict’s approach is both abstract and highly ambivalent. In the gallery along with some uncredited patio umbrellas are grim charcoal-on-plaster abstractions (Malaria [all works 2015]), gloomy gouaches (Wet Wheat III), sarcastic glass and wire sculptures (Mythical Marketing (Prison of your Mind)) as well as collages and offset prints. Benedict’s own position seems suspended between a sense of the depth of our world’s problems and the inability to see any way one’s getting out of bed would help, if not hurt, the situation. How else to feel about titles such as Climate Shame and Universe of Disgust?

Benedict’s weltschmerz is at its most compelling when he plays the weirdest cards in his deck, represented here by some offset posters. The best one, Comparison Leads To Violence Poster, features a photograph of an actor dressed as an alien, with title text running underneath in bold black and white. Here, the absurdity of our situation is made clear: We exist so firmly outside our ethical selves that we might as well be from space— how else can we go on as we do with the knowledge that we have? Instead of taking anything close to a didactic stance on the subject of climate change, the work engages the viewer in a Levinasian encounter with ourselves-as-other in the gaze of a face that is neither entirely human nor alien. Making eye contact with the human inside the alien mask simultaneously reinforces our humanity and shows us how weird we have, as a species, truly become.