Media: Articles

Benini’s Controlled Kaos

by Leslie Peacock
March 23, 2011

Arkansas Times


Eye Candy

Courting Kaos  :   Open Pleasures   Benini 30" x 40"

Courting KaosOpen Pleasures Benini 30" x 40"

The thing about the paintings of Benini, the Italian-born artist who helped build Hot Springs’ art scene and now lives in Texas, is that they sometimes require you to befriend the circular and the shaped. That doesn’t come naturally. Shaped canvases fall into that netherworld of beings that straddle form, like tadpoles and toads, caterpillars and butterflies — sculpture and painting. I find them hard to like; circles put edges on images in ways that rectangles, thanks to our Western eye, don’t. Ken Noland turned his square paintings 45 degrees to make them diamonds, and that drove me nuts, because they were no longer about lines and color in space but about line trapped in a shape.

But Noland was all about flatness, and Benini is all about dimension and light. Even when he’s working on a flat surface, Benini’s images curve. The circular and shaped canvases make a kind of sense.

So keep all that in mind, or at least some of it, when you go to Greg Thompson Fine Art in Argenta to see the current exhibit, “Benini: The Painter’s Journey.”

The show offers up some atmospheric paintings from his Kaos series of the past several years and some earlier works, like aluminum roses and ribbons from the 1980s and 1990s. Benini lately combines his precise trompe l’oeil glow with thick (and highly controlled) splatters around (and standing out from) the edges; think Jules Olitski walking in space.

Benini joked at the opening reception for his show last Friday, during the third Friday Argenta ArtWalk, that he’s gotten old so now he drips. He will be 70 this year, his wife and tireless promoter, Lorraine Benini, said, but he has in no way gotten old; his strength shows in the large canvases and careful, intentional application of paint.

Besides creating circular paintings, Benini also dares paint in pink. His 30-inch-by-40-inch (rectangular) “Courting Kaos: Open Pleasure,” for example, is a rosy glow framed by gold and pale pink splatters; the splatters are so thick they run together, obscuring the pink background but not blending themselves. A dominating 73-inch-by-48-inch acrylic, “Face of God: Dodici,” completed just before the exhibit, is also on the Kaos theme — a canvas that seems illuminated in its center, in this case saturated in red, receding from its edges of gold and pink splatters. In “Courting Kaos: Between” Benini offsets a rusty red background that changes from dark to light in a horizontal, rather than central, fashion; here the splattered edges, in black, gold, gray and white, nearly converge, squeezing the background from left and right. The palette’s combination of colorless/deep color is tremendous.

I’m still uncomfortable with the circle-shaped paintings, though their conjured spherical images are wonderful. We're not supposed to be comfortable with art, anyway; Benini avoids the decorative, which is fairly hard to do in abstract art.

One of my favorite pieces in this show is from the 1990s: a metallic ribbon that furls about a red star. It’s Benini’s paean to Texas, where he and Lorraine now have a Hill Country sculpture ranch on a hundred-plus acres once owned by LBJ.

The show runs through May 18. Greg Thompson Fine Art is at 429 Main St., North Little Rock. For information or photos of paintings on exhibit, call Greg Thompson at 501-664-2787.

Eye Candy


Benini's controlled Kaos

By Leslie Newell Peacock on Wed, Mar 23, 2011

Surface Treatment: The Cosmos Within

by Nancy Moyer
October 8, 2012

Rich color has poured out of the soul of Benini and onto this gallery of canvases. These powerful visual manifestations link the artist to his inspirational sources, while push-pulling the eyes of the viewer into each abstract work. New Masterworks is currently on display at IMAS.

Two major series dominate the exhibit, Courting Kaos and Face of God. Both utilize two conflicting techniques for the purpose of communicating dimensionality within the picture plane. In these new works, Benini has established a background plane of almost mechanically perfect graduated tones. He explained that in order to achieve this vibrant and luminous technique, he needs a specific working temperature for his acrylics to flow properly at the desired viscosity. To accommodate his sensitive pigments, he begins his painting day at 4am, taking advantage of the cool Texas Hill Country nights.

With all the paintings, Benini used a process that combined carefully blended backgrounds with selectively dropped acrylic in highly controlled patterns.

After laying the flawlessly smooth ground, plain and metallic acrylic paints were spilled/dropped to impact the canvas with shapes reminiscent of small splashes of molten metal.

What is the meaning of this molten perimeter that forms around a central gradient, threatening to engulf this pure meticulously controlled background? Are the paintings a metaphorical battle between the encroachments of human industry upon the purity of primal existence?  Is this a battle of balance between the realms of God and Man? In some of the paintings the chaotic splats achieve almost total encroachment. Are we, as humankind, blotting out the primal realm? Benini gives us a lot to think about.

“Courting Kaos: Open” demonstrates this duality. A vertically graduated blue tone visually moves from a saturated hue at the top of the canvas to white. The textural splats of paint border each side, appearing to tear apart in the center, revealing the carefully blended ground. The distressed paint, consisting of solid black, grey, and white values, creates a foreground layer against what we unconsciously perceive as distant sky.

Throughout the paintings, another interesting aspect of the splatter layer is the use of metallic and iridescent paints, which shift color and tone as the viewer walks by. This movement within the composition adds a further dimension to the works. The play between the overt coloration of the ground and the ephemeral metallic color shifts within the textures creates a vibrant, shifting, spectacle.

Benini’s paintings come from within, inspired by a greater reality. His painting, “Shaping Kaos: The Great Dream,” is described with his poem:

"I once found myself                                                                                                                                
Into a perfect dream                                                                                                                                    
Full of glowing shades of love                                                                                                               
It grew and grew                                                                                                                     ‘til it became one                                                                                                                                          
With me.”

Nancy Moyer, Professor Emerita of Art from UTPA, is an art critic for The Monitor. She may be reached

Photo by Nancy Moyer

Photo by Nancy Moyer

Posted: Monday, October 8, 2012 1:31 pm
Nancy Moyer

What: New Masterworks by Benini

Where:    International Museum of Art & Science, 1900 Bicentennial

When: Through January 20, 2013. Hours are Tues., Wed., Fri., and Sat. 9 am -5 pm; Thurs: 9 am to 8 pm; Sun. 1-5 pm

Contact: 956-682-1564 or General admission is charged.
Admission is free from 4-8pm every Thursday.