David Dean Bottrell on Off-Ramp for November 5, 2011

RIP Karl Benjamin, art trailblazer, "hard-edge" but happy

Stage II

Stage II, 1958, Karl Benjamin

Mercer 7740

Julian Bermudez

81-year old Karl Benjamin, a "hard edge" abstract painter, who was on the leading edge of California Cool. His work is part of OCMA's"Birth of the Cool" exhibit. With Off-Ramp's John Rabe and Queena Kim.

Karl Benjamin, Getty Research Institute, Gift of Michael Asher

Poster for Karl Benjamin exhibition at the Esther-Robles Gallery in Los Angeles, 1964.


UPDATE: Karl Benjamin died July 26, 2012, at the age of 86.

Pacific Standard Time is the huge art project that tells the story of Southern California's rightful place as a leader in Modern Art. One of the featured post-war trailblazers is Karl Benjamin, who lives in Claremont and who painted in what came to be called the Hard Edge style.

Hard Edge sounds harsh, but Benjamin's works are riots of colors getting along very well; it's just the borders between them that are hard. One art critic, Dave Hickey, wrote "I can think of no other artist whose paintings exude the joy and pleasure of being an artist with more intensity than Karl Benjamin."

Off-Ramp host John Rabe talked with Karl Benjamin at the Orange County Museum of Art's "Birth of the Cool" exhibit in 2007, where he learned he wasn't just a painter, but an enlightened teacher, too.


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