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Review: Amy Bennett at Richard Heller Gallery

January 22, 2009 | 11:30 am

PaulaBrooklyn painter Amy Bennett was born in Maine. In her second show at Richard Heller Gallery, 13 strange new paintings of recreational campsites, “At the Lake,” recall that evergreen locale.

They even exploit the look of vacation snapshots, both in their scenic aspects and the playful nature of their compositions, as well as in their disconcerting surface sheen. Bennett paints in oil on wood panels of modest size — the smallest are 6 inches square, most are less than 24 inches on the largest side — but she coats the surface with a slick, polished resin that visually obliterates any mark of the artist’s hand.

This photographic sheen, however, is immediately undermined. Upon closer look, the rustic settings that emerge from the carefully applied paint are toylike. The straightforward brushwork seems jelled in aspic — human yet remote, touched yet inaccessible, somehow slightly morbid. These landscapes turn out to be still lifes: Bennett first built a three-dimensional diorama of a lakeside scene, then painted scenes from that.

Bennett also uses the watery reflections provided by the lake to compound the mystery. Reflection as contemplation and rumination is mirrored in the water’s surface, which adds an almost hallucinatory edge to the memory of these places. Recreation is refreshment by means of an agreeable diversion, but trouble lurks in this rustic, very American paradise.

A man apparently helping a woman stand up might also be dragging her corpse into the bushes. A group of hunters gathering by the shore possesses a vague aura of vigilantism. A woman on a glowing sandbar seems marooned. A small cabin on a tiny island surrounded by water has the appearance of an almost desperate getaway.

Even a shoreline scene of a matronly woman, “Paula,” standing at a dock seems quietly fraught. A dog on a raft out in the water is man’s best friend, now stranded and remote. These are pictures of loss and alienation, rendered with sometimes overworked but never heavy-handed skill.

-- Christopher Knight

Richard Heller Gallery, Bergamot Station, 2525 Michigan Ave., Santa Monica, (310) 453-9191, through Feb. 14. Closed Sundays and Mondays.

Above: Amy Bennett's "Paula" (2008), oil on panel. Credit: Richard Heller Gallery

Comments () | Archives (7)

Toys. Generations of artistes with no connection to etiher life or art. What do you get? Toys. Al Pacino as Scarface, toys, bogbs big boys, toys. All an artist at an academy needs to do these days is show up with their Happy Meal collection of toys, and glue them on a board. Social comment extraordinaire!
Arte! LOL!!, or is it belch.
As your idol Obama said, its time to put aside childish things. Time to grow up, Peter Pans and Wendies of the Academies, galleries and art colonies. Time to face, life, and death, square in the face. Its not about you. Never has been, never will be. Its about US. The marketing of art and lowering of teh ceiling, based on the lowest common denominator, actually childish fetishes, instead of the highest .

Time to grow up art world,

art collegia delenda est

In response to D. Frazell's comment: This work IS about connection--our lack of it! Have a look around Mr Frazell, EVERYONE is playing with toys. Stop attacking the messengers. Amy Bennett's work rigorously examines the everyday, near-robotic habits, contrasted with the pristine qualities found in natural settings. This natural setting is our highest calling, not some ideological trumpted up HOPE or idea of GROWING UP or whatever lessons you feel compelled to stuff down our throats. What have you created lately?

Just google me, and find out. I do not hide behind pseudonyms, but do stand behind my words and actions. That is what a Man does.
Its called Responsibility, the art world needs to try it sometime, your hero Obama requires you to.

art collegia delenda est

I like her work...but where does a fairly young artist get off charging $20K and up for rather modest sized paintings? They are selling so I guess collectors with a lot of money must know something.


I took a look at your work.
Keep trying, Or quit. It will probably make no difference.

On the other hand, Amy's art is immediately engaging, original, and fun.

Shhhhhh. It is forbidden to speak to the helmsman.

the Vatican seems to enjoy it, at least Cardinal Ravasi does, as he sent it to his guy preparing for the 2011 Venice Biennale. How would you know what art is? You dont even know your last name. Weak.

The art world is hopelessly corrupt, time to go around it rotting, stinking carcass.

art collegia delenda est

Shhhhhhhh. Latin is a dead language.


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