Los Angeles

Karl Benjamin

Esther-Robles Gallery

Few directions in contemporary art can be directly associated with this geographic area. There were the California watercolor regionalists decades ago, and more currently, the indelible Lebrun legacy, but none seems more persistent, more determined to exhaust every possible nuance than the so-­called Hard-Edge group. Some devotees have adhered to the purely classic con­structions of McLaughlin or Feitelson, while others have permitted romantic­ism to add an essence of drama, such as Hammersley. It has made strong contributions toward certain Pop con­structions while also donating formal attitudes to other movements.

Karl Benjamin has maintained a dedicated vision in the traditional sense of the idiom under consideration and rarely strays far from the most formal­ized compositions, precisely balanced and as solidly weighted as a block of cement. These immobilized forms are, however, not so static when the artist applies his colors. The bright masses of reds and purples, of greens and oranges, set up belligerent vibrations which are no comfort to the eye. In some instances the vicious play of colors becomes boldly obtrusive, set­ting up mildly painful vibrations which obscure pertinent elements of the work. The pictures seem most gratifying when limited to the simplest of arrangements and the colors least combative. It is easy to appreciate why Benjamin was selected to be included in the Museum of Modern Art’s forthcoming exhibition on optics, “The Responsive Eye.” His contribution will be an important one.

––Curt Oplinger