Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Two shows at the Algoma Art Gallery

     1. Tom Benner is a graduate of Beal Tech in London Ontario, and it shows. There are strong hints of the London School, both in the materials and the contents of his art works, and in the blandly surrealistic contrasts of its subject matter. He likes assemblages of graphics and sculpture using a variety of materials. This show is labelled Call of the Wild (to May 31st, 2014). I especially liked his group of fibreglass African Asses, and his group of a large copper moon (about 8ft in diameter), a copper pine tree (about 8ft tall), and a small wolf. But every work is at least interesting.
     The overall effect is the artist’s obsessiveness on the one hand, and a paradoxical calm and quiet on the other. I mean, imagine building a copper sphere 8ft in diameter, or casting and painting 16 fibreglass beavers. Even apparently more conventional works contain evidence of Benner’s obsession with getting it right: there are three prints of pine trees accompanying the copper canoe, each print has a dozen or so small flying crows cut from black paper glued to them. I liked Benner’s work; it’s public art, in the sense that it would look best in large spaces such as high-rise building lobbies or atria, or even food courts in malls. Tom has a website. ***

     2. Gabriela Benitez (to May 25th 2014) likes to paint in the outdoors, not because she wants to make pictures of trees and rocks and water, but because she feels freer to lay down the paint in grand and eloquent gestures. The results are mixed. Most of the pieces on show here clearly have significance for the artist, but not necessarily for the viewer. She has a good colour sense. I liked a couple of canvases on which Benitez has layered paint and cloth and other materials in a palette of off whites, greys, and blues, with a glaze that adds shine and glitter, making vaguely figurative images. The others were interesting, but did not move me. Her website is here. **½

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