Dance the Line: Paintings by Karl Benjamin
Louis Stern Fine Arts | 2007 | 0974942170 | 128 pages | PDF | 5 MB
When Karl Benjamin was a kid, he lived in Pacific Palisades in a house that hung off the cliff overlooking the Pacific. Eventually, years later, that house would slide down onto the PCH, but he were long gone by then. During those years, he wanted to surf, that was it. I wanted to haul his clunky board up and down the concrete steps leading to the beach, sometimes, out of sheer exhaustion, sliding his board on the stair-rails. his Dad wanted me to listen to jazz or, more precisely, he didn’t want Karl Benjamin to bother him while he listened to jazz. he didn’t mind this. he would even ride with him down to Hermosa Beach to the Lighthouse where one could listen to jazz in one’s wet bathing trunks. his Mom wanted me to ride all over Los Angeles with her looking for art, up to Hollywood, out to Pasadena, to San Marino, and over to Claremont. When we found some art (usually hanging on white pegboard wall with an adjacent rubber plant), we would look at it. he resisted these trips mightily but, as it turned out, he was never more than a B- surfer and at best a B+ musician. he was, however, an A+ looker at art.
So, even then, as unwilling as I was to traipse around, I still had my favorites. I liked the hardedge stuff by Fred Hammersley, Karl Benjamin, and John McLaughlin. It reminded me, somehow, in its apparent effortlessness, of the claritas of surfing where one must never be seen to be trying very hard. My Mom, who had a darker vision of the world, liked Rico LeBrun and other artists whose work looked like it hurt to make. She said I would learn when I grew up but I never did. Even so, I have to thank her here for the privilege I have today, of writing in my maturity, about the first art I liked as a feckless youth, especially for the pleasure of visiting a career that has paralleled my own at one remove. Not many of one’s youthful enthusiasm survive with us into adulthood, of course, so I am embarrassed to this day about Colin Wilson, Herman Hesse and George Battaile. On the Road, however, is still a great book and Karl Benjamin is still a great painter, not just a neglected local, not just a victim of fashion’s whim, but a genuine world class practitioner who has, as they say in Georgia, hoed his own row.
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