Matthew Benedict’s exhibition at Alexander and Bonin, titled “Manifestations,” surveys nearly three decades of the artist’s career, presenting works that have seldom been on public view. With his method of working in gouache and blending conventions of decorative arts, illusion, and illustration—Benedict’s paintings take on an aura of timelessness, depicting scenes that range from the Biblical to the contemporary.
Signifiers of his engagement in narrative, myth, and religion, Benedict’s paintings San Lorenzo of Rome (1993) and Saint Joan of Arc (1997-1998), for instance, depict the titular ancient saints in his modern graphic style, as historical subjects illustrated. His interest in pulling the past into the present(and pulling the viewer along with it) is a thread that runs throughout this exhibition. Moon and Tides (The Eternal Subject) (2002) [pictured] exemplifies Benedict’s use of this artistic device: Mounted at an angle, the painting, which depicts a sea under a full moon, seems to tilt sideways with the force of its waves. This illusion is just one of the many trompe l’oeil effects that he employs to destabilize further the realities of his scenes—realities in which the horizon line may be upended. Yet his paintings are always rooted in a kind of emotive truth or memory—in this case, likely a recollection of the maritime scenes and stories of his youth in New England.
Matthew Benedict, Moon and Tides (The Eternal Subject), 2002. 60 x 84 inches.