Continuing through August 29, 2014
“Withheld Narratives” consists of twelve paintings and seven drawings of quiet interiors and desolate street scenes throughout New Mexico and Rhode Island. Christopher Benson indeed withholds the narrative element except for a vague intonation, as in "Interior with Figures," where a couple sits motionless at a kitchen table while a man stares out the window. The social tension seen in a Benson predecessor, Edward Hopper, is reduced to mere figurative color blocking. Even the two paintings of Benson’s wife are static moments barely reflective of a story.
In "Interior with Sleeping Girl" a centrally placed woman occupies her living room chair with head cocked and eyes closed. The paint application washed away any impurities or expressive elements of character, age, or time, leaving in their wake areas of color. A pillow becomes pink rectangles of light and dark. Books become stripes of color. It is nondescript and somehow sad in its anonymity. Another major influence, Richard Diebenkorn, is startlingly clear in the burnt reds, muted tones, crisp shadows, empty landscapes, and expressionless faces that helped define Bay Area Figuration — a tradition to which the artist staunchly adheres.