Benini “Face of God”

Benini began his long and accomplished career creating paintings for spare change on the streets of post-World War II Italy. From these humble beginnings emerged a formidable painter who was to have more than 160 one man exhibitions of his work in a dozen countries. Coming of age in the early 1960’s, Benini found that traditional landscapes and still lifes were no longer in demand by galleries who were then genuflecting at the altar of Abstract Expressionism. Despite this aesthetic dogmatism that dominated the mid-20th century art market, Benini persisted in iconoclastically creating large scale monochromatic renditions of the human figure.

By the 1970’s, the artist was painting Surrealistic images invoking the Romantic iconography of the rose.  These large paintings featuring single blossoms in splendid isolation, often hovering in ambiguous space, were a substantial departure from the still lifes of his youth.  Always the technical innovator, Benini began to experiment with shaped canvases stretched over aluminum panels. By the 1980’s, the artist’s fascination with geometry manifested itself in complex and meticulously rendered images of targets, ribbons, and stars.

These undulating images were incredibly demanding to create and demonstrated the artist’s command of the medium. By this point in his career, demand for Benini’s symbolist imagery, brilliantly rendered in a luscious Italianate palette, was well established and collectors throughout the world sought out his latest productions. At that point, any other artist might have been content to rest on his laurels and ride out his career creating pieces along formulaic lines. But Benini has never been a typical artist nor has he been averse to risk-taking.

At the dawn of the 21st century, Benini began an entirely new body of work, breaking from his figurative and geometric past. Ironically, the artist began to investigate Abstract Expressionism for a new generation. While this might not sound courageous, by the end of the 1990’s, the figure had returned to art and, once again, rendering was becoming a valuable talent. But Benini has made an entire career of zigging when others have zagged. In this latest body of work, the artist has combined his preoccupations with science and metaphysics to create viscerally evocative pieces that reflect a transcendental quality achieved by only a handful of abstract masters. Unlike the often flat pieces created by the gesturalists of previous generations, Benini’s paintings combine a refined control with a command of chaos that yields an intriguing dimensionality as the background emerges into the drip-flattened foreground. The ovoid centers reveal a virtual embryonic personification, while the richly combined colors create a gestalt that, in combination with the compositions; invoke the cataclysmic creation of the Universe itself. It is no coincidence that this groundbreaking series of paintings by a mature master is entitled, “The Face of God.”