Sue Scott Gallery

Kristopher Benedict

Ann Landi
ARTnews, September 2009

While pursuing a residency in a small college town in Pennsylvania, painter Kristopher Benedict thought he caught a glimpse of a friend who had supposedly died of a drug overdose. It was a death Benedict describes as a "pseudo-cide," since his friend may or may not have taken his own life. The paintings in this show, titled "Fake Your Death," paid homage more to the town and its autumnal ambience than to the departed companion, and in the process alluded to the slipperiness of representation, just as the apparition made Benedict question the facts of his friend's demise.

The artist's style is somewhat reminiscent of the 19th-century French Nabis (Maurice Denis, Edouard Vuillard, Pierre Bonnard), often relying on large blocks of bright color and figures reduced to simplified shapes. Several of the works, such as Two Women and Friends (both 2008), seemed to celebrate friendship, while two portrayed a child perched atop a parent's shoulders. Together these works conveyed a touching nostalgia and a sense that memory continually alters our perceptions and understanding of the past.

The canvases were often joyous and creepy at the same time, occasionally approaching the nightmare intensity of some of van Gogh's street scenes in ArIes. Double House (2008), for example, features a rickety rambling structure under an intensely blue night sky, with a skeletal figure framed in the doorway; while Carlisle at Night (2008) shows similarly crumbling structures under a neon-patterned explosion of branches. Classroom (2008) captures a blaze of late-afternoon light as two young women, reduced to dark silhouettes, echo the spindly shape of a plant at the window. In Moon Man (2008), which looks almost like a children's-book illustration, Benedict offers a baleful lunar countenance.

The circumstances of his friend 's death may have been both tragic and mysterious, but Benedict's real talent is for joyous painterly painting, assured patterns of color, and buoyant brushwork that testify to his pure pleasure in his craft.

-Ann Landi