The music of geometry
A new exhibit at the de Saisset Museum explores the workspace and methods of renowned sculptor Fletcher Benton.
In a 1989 interview with the Smithsonian Institution’s Archives of American Art, renowned kinetic and constructivist sculptor Fletcher Benton described his work in terms of music, saying he arranged geometrical forms to evoke a response in his audience similar to how music might inspire a response. “I don’t expect you to say, ‘Gee, the tragedy in that stack of cubes is more than I can handle. I’m about to fall apart,’” said Benton, “But if you were to say, ‘I don’t know what I like about it, it just makes me feel good,’ you have said to me what I have tried to give you.”
A traveling exhibit currently at SCU’s de Saisset Museum, Fletcher Benton: The Artist’s Studio, explores the inspirations, processes, and tools that Benton brings into play as he experiments and assembles his sculptures. The exhibit, conceived by Benton himself, provides a rare opportunity to see the studio—a typically private space—through the artist’s eyes.
Benton, who resides in the Bay Area, makes extensive use of maquettes (small three-dimensional models) as he pursues his ideas, often disassembling them and recomposing them again and again before one is scaled up to a larger size. The installation, which includes a recreation of Benton’s workbench, celebrates this spirit of artistic innovation. Maquettes, studies, unfinished works, and completed sculptures trace Benton’s process from start to finish. Juxtaposed with the sculptures and maquettes are large-scale photographs of his working environment.
The cluttered surfaces, tools, and welded curves and angles of steel demonstrate the changeability of Benton’s forms—his aesthetic philosophy. By inviting the viewer into his working space, the exhibition provides insight into the artistic practices of one of the more important American sculptors of the 20th century.
Fletcher Benton: The Artist’s Studio will be at the de Saisset from Aug. 16 through Dec. 6. The exhibit was organized by the Sonoma Valley Museum of Art and supported in part by a gift from an anonymous donor and museum members. For more information, visit the de Saisset Museum website.
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