Sadie Benning, “Patterns”
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A consistent hand-worked quality has defined Sadie Benning’s work, from the DIY videos that made her name in the 1990s to more recent paintings featuring puzzle-like parts. Her current compositions, a series of painted reliefs, are less abstract than her previous efforts and seem to touch upon such social issues as guns and smoking, at least obliquely. Many of them share a palette of red, black and white in various combinations. The inclusion of a bright-green Astroturf carpet enhances the overall funky, folkish appeal of the paintings, made evident by inconsistent perspectives and wonky wooden shapes—sanded, plastered and painted to create rich surfaces—covering each piece.
The forms appear as stylized images, presented singly or in repeated patterns. In Gun Blanket, L-shaped pistols shoot fat, blocky bullets; a matched set of small panels, Cig One and Cig Two, sports cigarette packs festooned with fabric swatches that bring to mind Granny’s quilt. Julie’s Rug transitions from bed to floor with an asymmetrical checkerboard of red, yellow and black squares. Another painting, Mask, features the eponymous signature of Zorro or the Lone Ranger paired with a photo of a brick wall surrounding a suburban house, suggesting some kind of personal memory.
The standout piece, however, is the comic Bathroom People. In it, restroom-door icons are arranged into series of male/female, male/male and female/female pairs that seem to evoke, if not marriage equality exactly, a world of heterogeneous possibilities. All in all, Benning’s show seems to channel that old (if still relevant) saw: The personal is the political.