Artist Benjamin Terry makes playful paintings that use color and form to highlight longstanding painting traditions precisely by veering from them. His paintings bend towards the sculptural and his concern with space is apparent in his immersive installations. The work has some clear precedents in pop art, minimalism, and color field painting, but the evidence of his hand takes its cue more from provisional painting of this millennium. As he writes, "I'm interested in awkward shapes, lines, colors, interactions, surfaces, and gestures."
In Untitled (Bubblegum) (2019) we see an abstract composition of irregular, rounded pink shingle shapes punctuated by the occasional burst of turquoise and a single spot of yellow. The way the candy colors seem to drip down reminds me of Seattle's legendary gum wall, instead rendered here in wood and paint. By piecing together bits of colored wood instead of applying paint on a flat rectangle, Terry is slyly expanding the tradition of painting, altogether.
In his installation at Site131 there stands a sculptural yellow painted chair form facing a yellow burst painting on the wall. It is as if one painting is contemplating the other. Paintings, which typically exist in the 2D realm along with screens, reassembling into self-aware 3D forms mirrors contemporary anxieties around the future of A.I. But then a more lighthearted reading might include a joke about paintings (and painters) doing a bit of navel gazing.
Untitled (Chromatic 3) (2019) is keyed low like a nocturne and composed mostly of rounded stripes of hunter green and maroon. The stripes are formed by strips of wood that hang down at the bottom like an upside down fence-line. The three bright spots— a long strip of pink, a small square of ultramarine, and a marginal crescent of yellow— give the painting a sense of levity and rhythm, not unlike Broadway Boogie Woogie. The dark palette may be a slight departure from his earlier work in brighter hues but, as he says, his goal "is always to make things that are fresh and challenging."