Shop talk, answers to your FAQs, and a peek behind the scenes of an artist-run fine art gallery in Park Slope
Growing up in Arizona, I was influenced by many types of art. I drew inspiration from the art in our home, as well as Native American art, Art In America magazine, and Phillip Curtis (whom I apprenticed with). In college, I became interested in the art of Marcel Duchamp, William Wiley, Roy DeForest, and Robert Arneson.
I made figurative paintings for many years, and continue to do so. However, working abstractly has a focus and freedom that attracts me. The “images” can exist in a pure state, free from the confines of what we see with our eyes. They are more like images of what I think and feel. I don’t see a great divide between the abstract and the concrete work. They both have elements in common; they have to work as paintings/images, sculpture/forms.
My process is usually driven by drawing. I draw mostly from my imagination. Sometimes I work with found materials, scraps of wood, plastic or paper. Certain things catch my eye, and it’s hard to explain why. It’s like I recognize the form, but I cannot have seen it before. The important (and hardest part) is to connect emotionally to a subject or form. But this usually happens after investing thought and making decisions about the forms.
I feel more like a painter than sculptor, but I wanted to take my painting into new areas, including the 3-dimensional. I make flat rectangular paintings, shaped paintings, relief paintings/sculpture and 3-dimensional sculpture. Depending on the piece I am working on, I choose the format according to what feels right.
I look for rhythm, movement, and drama while working on a piece. Often I think of saying multiple things at once. This creates tension, conflict and hopefully, drama. Another aspect of my work that I have been asked about is my use of color. I have to say that although my work is colorful, I do not consider myself a colorist.
Lately I have been working on paper. After I recently broke my ankle, paper is easier to work with than heavier material. I like its versatility and variety. I have been drawing, painting and cutting it, and have made very large installations from it as well. For examples see my website, http://www.fredbendheim.com. There you can see “A Song For Harlem,” which was a very large paper installation from 2015. I especially like the negative shapes that occur when paper is cut. I also like the relative quickness of working with paper, versus some other media. By using paper, I can try many variations, moving the paper around in the same piece.
Craftsmanship is not a goal, but a vehicle for expression. I make everything by hand, one at a time, just like the old way of making things. This is not a philosophical choice, but just the easiest way to get the results that I want. I am willing to use any technique or material, whatever works. For example, I don’t like sanding, but often have to sand extensively. I use a variety of hand and power tools. Unlike many sculptors though, I still have ten fingers.