An Opera for Animals was first staged at Para Site in Hong Kong between 23 March and 2 June 2019, with works by over 48 artists and collectives that use opera as a metaphor for modes of contemporary, cross-disciplinary art-making. The exhibition's second iteration takes up a large portion of the Rockbund Art Museum (RAM) in Shanghai (22 June–25...
Moving across installation, painting, drawing, and writing, Malaysia-born and London-based artist Mandy El-Sayegh explores the political, social, and economic complexities of humanity, using a mosaic of information—from advertising slogans and pornographic imagery to newspaper articles—that she subjects to processes of layering,...
Get Up Stand Up Now: Generations of Black Creative Pioneers at Somerset House in London (12 June–15 September 2019) surveys more than half a century of black creativity in Britain and beyond across the fields of art, film, photography, music, design, fashion, and literature.Curated by Zak Ové, works by approximately 100 intergenerational black...
Amy Bennett, Witch (2019). Oil on panel. 3 3/4 x 5 1/4 inches. Courtesy Miles McEnery Gallery.
For more than a decade, Amy Bennett has been building a loyal following for her highly detailed views of a fictional world that resembles our own. She is an observational painter who works from models that she painstakingly constructs. For one group of paintings, Bennett transformed an 8-foot-square of Styrofoam into a lush green landscape that contained more than 450 buildings set within rolling hills and valleys, complete with streams and lakes. Each of the buildings was designed, built, and painted by the artist, who then depicted this self-contained world from different angles, often from a bird's eye view. Tending to working on a small scale, she made paintings that remained true to the miniaturized perfection of her artificial, slightly askew world. All sorts of tensions arose.
Through her paintings of interior scenes and rural and suburban landscapes, Portland-born American artist Amy Bennett explores memory, narrative, themes of suburban life, and an awareness of our changing surroundings. Painted from complex three-dimensional miniatures, these emotive works appear eerily artificial.
Based in the Hudson Valley of New York State, Bennett creates artworks that are products of a painstaking two-stage process. The artist begins by creating scale models and dioramas of fictional places (landscapes and interior) using cardboard, wood, Styrofoam, plastic, string, paint, glue, and model railroad miniatures. She progressively builds up and populates these imagined environments inspired by rural and suburban up-state New York with figures acting out local history and snippets of narratives.
Parallels to Bennett's practice can be found in the similarly model-based practices of photographers James Casebere, Thomas Demand, and Laurie Simmonds, or painters like Malcolm Morley. With total control over lighting, composition, and vantage points, Bennett turns these suburban scenes of life and intrigue into paintings. High-angled perspectives often resembling a bird's-eye perspective or view from a low-flying aircraft, exaggerated distances from the subjects, and consciously preserved inconsistencies of scale contribute to an uneasy sense of unnaturalness or inauthenticity. While representing a fictional miniature world, the artist's works reflect life in upstate New York, conveying a sense of isolation within populated neighbourhoods.
For her series of monotypes and paintings exhibited at Richard Heller Gallery in 2016, Bennett created a rural landscape bit by bit, adding fences, property lines, fields, and monopoly-sized buildings (totalling 450 by the end) to make a bustling town. Documented over different stages of the town's growth, the approach explores changing relationships to the environment over time and the American dream of taming nature.
Some of Bennett's paintings are more explicitly narrative. They tell fragments of human stories up to and including—as in the case of artworks such as Paying Respects (2006)—death, in fictive environments. Occasionally they refer to domestic violence, as in Against the Wall (2006), which shows a man pressing a young woman against a wall, holding her high above the floor.
Bennett's series of family scenes—'Nuclear Family' (2019)—carries the sense of fleeting voyeurism seen in the paintings of fellow New Yorker Edward Hopper (1882–1967). Intimate moments between figures seen at a distance are frozen in time like glimpses of other lives viewed through a window. The quietness of the artist's interiors and landscapes has a sinister undercurrent lurking in the fine details of these snapshots of suburban, small-town life.
Since graduating with a BFA from the University of Hartford (1999) followed by an MFA from the New York Academy of Art (2002), Bennett has been the recipient of multiple prestigious fellowships and scholarships. These include the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship (2015), the New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship (2010), and the Prince of Wales Scholarship to Normandy (2003).
Bennett's paintings have been exhibited in many galleries across the United States, including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. In 2011 she undertook a public commission for a mosaic mural in a New York subway station.
NEW YORK–MILES MCENERY GALLERY is pleased to announce a presentation of new paintings by Amy Bennett. A public reception will be held for the artist on 11 July from 6:00 to 8:00 PM at 520 West 21st Street, and the exhibition will be on view 11 July through 16 August. It is accompanied by a fully illustrated publication, featuring an essay by Eleanor Heartney.
Amy Bennett’s paintings offer a window into what Eleanor Heartney termed the 'unhistoric acts' of everyday life. In this new body of work, Bennett calls attention to these seemingly unremarkable moments of contemporary family life by painting them on a miniature scale, encouraging the viewer to take a closer look.
In order to create her depictions of domestic activity, the artist builds minuscule three-dimensional models and then paints what she sees, working from both her imagination and from life. Using everyday materials such as wood, Styrofoam, and plastic, Amy Bennett fabricates her own worlds whose scenes inform her paintings.
What results from this model world is a stream of narratives that Bennett translates into her paintings in a style that Heartney calls 'an unsettling kind of realism–simultaneously artificial and naturalistic.' Whilst her compositions represent a moment frozen in time, they are by no means static; her paintings buzz with the energy of a living experience. As Heartney writes, 'The glimpses we are afforded are always partial, although in some cases the continuity of setting suggests that we may be observing different moments in a connected narrative.'
By isolating fleeting and quotidian moments, Bennett invites the viewer to introspect on what is often overlooked. Upon closer investigation, these moments reveal themselves as more unsettling than comfortable. The artist’s use of differing perspectives—incorporating both bird’s eye views and zoomed-in close ups—simultaneously creates the comfort of context and a sense of disorientation.
On this new body of work, Bennett remarks, 'I have painted scenes of suburban home life in the past, but they were more related to themes of isolation and voyeurism... Now that I am entrenched in family life myself, my perspective has shifted. "Nuclear Family" is more concerned with the vulnerabilities and anxieties of parenthood and marriage.'
Witnessed together, these paintings celebrate Amy Bennett’s deft and precise use of colour and light. The exhibition at 520 West 21st Street is rich in character—even literary—and ultimately calls attention to the mysteries that often pervade ordinary life.
Shortly after my review of Amy Bennett's exhibition at Miles McEnery Gallery appeared on the Hyperallergic Weekend, I got an email from Mollye Miller, who, I later learned, is a photographer and poet living in Baltimore. In fact, she and I were published in the same little magazine, Prelude, edited by Stu Watson, but not in the same issue. But all...
There have always been multiple entry points for viewers to come to terms with John Sonsini's bravura portraits of single or multiple male subjects, most of whom are Mexican day laborers, and 'the age of Trump' has unexpectedly provided us with yet another.
Judy Pfaff's recent show featured five major wall reliefs (all 2018) that resemble discrete exhibitions unto themselves. The series is titled 'Quartet,' with works numbered one through four and a fifth designated Quartet + 1.
Inka Essenhigh — to suggest an artist who exemplifies this more open attitude — seems like many of her generation, immune to anxieties related to fusing abstraction with figuration. But her inaugural exhibition at Miles McEnery this spring reveals an even greater level of freedom and invention, a freedom that resonates unapologetically with all...
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