For her first solo show at Mike Weiss, Trudy Benson has embarked on an ambitious series of large abstract paintings. Actual/Virtual is comprised of thirteen heavily painted works all made in 2011. In each composition, black-and-white grids and big geometric shapes evoke architectural spaces on which Benson then layers oil, enamel, flashe, acrylic, and spray paint. The artist aims to achieve sensuous and playful accumulation by applying these mediums in various ways: drips, dribbles, graffiti zigzags, and globular cakes. What she ends up producing, however, is material excess.
Benson invokes videogame aesthetics, à la Tron and Tetris, but Kandinsky and Stuart Davis are visible influences as well. Kandinsky’s “Compositions” seem particularly informative: floods seen from above make an effulgent map out of apocalypse. Benson seems to be imagining a kind of destruction, too. Her paintings appear like planetary collisions contained in a science room. This sci-fi possibility is what’s most exciting about her work, but it’s never really made explicit. In Cosmic Comic, for instance, rainbow bands, scrawling spurts of black lines like cartoon radio waves, and peach-beige tendrils emerge from a cyclopean octopus-hemisphere that seems to be shooting laser beams.
Other paintings similarly conflate deep landscape and shallow interior, but are trite in their generality. The pictorial unity of these looming canvases becomes increasingly more difficult to experience, especially when they’re oriented as long verticals. To view the entirety of these images one would need more distance, the kind achieved through the mediation of a computer screen.
Benson moves paint forcefully but in the overabundance of materials, her marks register as confused and noisy. They become repetitive signs and gestures emptied of their potential meanings.
~Aldrin Valdez, a writer living in New York.
Images: Trudy Benson, Holographix, 2011, Oil on canvas, 94 x 77 inches; Cosmic Comics, 2011, Acrylic, flashe, enamel, spray paint, and oil on canvas, 85 x 100 inches. Courtesy Mike Weiss Gallery.