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Benny Fountain
Froelick Gallery, Portland, Oregon
Recommendation by Richard Speer

Benny Fountain, "windowroom radiant," 2018, oil on canvas, 60 x 48"

Continuing through August 29, 2019

Benny Fountain explores the unlikely chemistry between rectilinear abstraction and nostalgia in his suite of new paintings, “windowroom.” Each work portrays the same subject — the artist’s erstwhile southeast Portland kitchen (he has since relocated to Waco, Texas) — in varying degrees of hard-edge abstraction. In “windowroom eyes closed” the kitchen window is a mute, blank void, while the interior space, its furniture, and appliances, are rendered in considerable detail. Even the place settings, utensils, and parquet-floor tiles are articulated in “in side (the meaning of two chairs),” whereas in “windowroom radiant,” the chair, table, stove, and floor appear in ghostly silhouette, as if vaporized.

Notably, the kitchen in “windowroom out side (sun and hill)” is wholly geometric, while the exterior vista is depicted realistically. This is not the view from Fountain’s former home in Portland, but rather from his boyhood home in northwestern Idaho — a choice suggesting that no matter how far we roam from our roots, the landscapes and mindscapes of our pasts always follow us. The painter did a residency two years ago at the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation in Connecticut; it is impossible not to read the concentric rectangular framing device in works such as “windowroom soft” as anything other than an affectionate quotation of the Albers’ devotion to geometry, in particular Josef Albers’s iconic “Homage to the Square” series.

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