Vif-argent (quicksilver), that’s what mercury was called in France until the 19th century (whether it was structural or not!).
New York in the 1980s, the Lower East Side, a small group of painters took up geometry where Pop Art had left off. Under the roofs! Misstretched, moiré patterned, monochrome eye-sores…
Steve DiBenedetto (1958, New York), who had studied at Parsons alongside Steven Parrino (1958-2005), painted the way others make tapestry. A resourceful, wily style, with networks of parallel lines that compete with the colours for the order of layers. Optical effects created with Day-Glo colours and moiré patterns, more dirty than demonstrative but nevertheless devilishly effective. The clear line is complemented by a multitude of deformations, mechanical or savagely sprayed. This was in the 1990s. And it got worse after that...
Steve is a travelling companion of Le Consortium, an off-kilter brother, a cell mate, a Burgundy wine lover. An artist who can be found on our walls and in our collection over and over again.
I (FG) remember an awkward argument in his studio in the late 1990s, where his self-satisfied virtuosity had triggered our anger and excessive comments – but our camaraderie was strong enough to endure it!
Modern painting called for large formats, beyond the human scale that had limited the canvas sizes of the Zurich Concretes (such as those of Richard Paul Lohse). Yet this call is being undermined today (or maybe not). The drastic reduction of artist lofts during the 1970s in SoHo (which has now become a kind of huge Homes and Garden Centre) into a few paltry square meters – one-hundred times more expensive, the painters’ cages of Brooklyn-sur-Loing – had the knock-on effect of considerably lowering the paintings’ surficial aspirations.
Steve’s painting is based on countless painted sheets of paper, entangling colored lines and indentations, layers and tracery patterns, joyfully celebrating compositional confusion and formal labyrinths.
We (SdK & FG) were in Beijing, where DiBenedetto’s paintings were part of the 2007 Alliance group exhibition. The Chinese were dazzled!
We didn’t lose the thread, but were clever enough to give him free rein and the hope of a solo show at Aubert de Villaine at the heart of the Romanée-Conti estate. It was executed beautifully, last summer, with 35 superb color drawings he had created in an American residence in Rome.
Our friend and long-time visual accomplice Frank Elbaz immediately understood the greatness of the project and saw the perfect opportunity to bring it to Paris. We are happy to be supporting him now. A happiness rekindled a few weeks ago in a Queens studio in the presence of the familiar (although still frequently grating) small (pet-like) paintings, quickly chosen and placed next to their big sister with larger dimensions. Painted sheets, in a Cena-style pousse-café, proud of their celestial doodlings.
It was about time he came (back) to Paris.
(Seungduk Kim & Franck Gautherot)