440 Gallery | Brooklyn NY

Shop talk, answers to your FAQs, and a peek behind the scenes of an artist-run fine art gallery in Park Slope

Artist Interview with Fred Bendheim – Principles of Composition

Upon entering the gallery, I was immediately captivated by Fred Bendheim’s piece Fire on the Water. The strong juxtaposition of shapes is fascinating. It has a powerful sense of movement that kept my eyes following the contours of each shape. I took a look in his flat file to get a better sense of his work and aesthetic. I loved seeing how his 3-dimensional work evolved from his 2-dimensional pieces. His strong use of line and color makes for beautiful works. Intrigued by his piece, I asked Fred a series of questions to learn more about his work…

What themes or ideas do you try to explore while creating your artwork?

My themes and ideas are mostly visual thoughts. However, with Fire on the Water, it was a part of a series of pieces about paintings and frames. So it can be seen as a deconstructed painting (the blue shape) with an unconventional frame (yellow shape).


Fire On The Water
30” x 50” x 9”
painted and stained wood

But in general, as for themes, I teach the “Principles of Composition” and you can see those in my work: balance, tension, movement, unity in variety, format, color harmony, distillation to the essence.


22 1/2” x 281/2” x 21/2”
painted wood with frame

Stylistically, how has your work evolved over the years?

As for my stylistic evolution: “full circle” is a good description. I was interested in surrealism at first (age 17). I apprenticed with Philip Curtis, a surrealist painter in Arizona. Then I had teachers who were abstract expressionists, which I did for a few years. Then I wanted to find a ” base”, so I turned to realism or naturalism, painting nature inspired images and interior, dream-inspired images. This would be about 25 years ago. That work slowly evolved into abstraction, which is primarily what I do now. I painted a linear abstraction for many years, coming from drawing, and an interest in branching and flowing forms such as trees and rivers.


32″ x 39″
oil and alkyd on canvas

What inspired you to work 3-dimensionally? Have you done so before?

I have always made sculpture, mostly from wood, although primarily I am a painter. I have even done some stone carving including a piece that took me 7 months to complete. I am now working on shaped paintings, which are flat, but have sculptural qualities as they are not rectangles. Sometimes I will add physical depth to them to give more emphasis to certain elements. It’s a balancing process between flatness and depth, stillness and movement, etc.


Big Clubs
oil on wood

I like to think of my work and stylistic evolution in the image of an unusual tree, having a variety of growing and diverse branches.

What was your process in creating Fire on the Water?

Fire on the Water was a challenging piece to make. It involved bending wood and fitting odd and double angles of wood. Luckily, my studio neighbor was a framer and he helped me. It took a few months to complete. It’s main theme is “tension”…The tension of opposites.

As an artist, how do you know when a work is finished?

A piece is finished when I can’t add, subtract or change anything.


oil on wood

Take a look at Fire on the Water on display in the current exhibition, Everyone in the Pool and check out www.fredbendheim.com for more images of Fred’s work! The gallery is open Thursday and Friday, 4:00 – 7:00 PM, Saturday and Sunday, 11:00 AM – 7:00 PM, or by appointment. Check the gallery’s website, www.440gallery.com, for more information.

Contributed by 440 Intern, Mackenzie Suben.


This entry was posted on August 17, 2013 by in From our studios, Uncategorized, What's up @ 440.

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