Barton Benne-4 chained black books   Jim Pallas (red Nail book)


 
The late artist, Bob Casky,  once created a Confessional for artists. In it he sat to hear their sins and dispense a kind of absolution or advice.  If his booth still existed, I would go to confession. I would hope there is a special category for a sin committed in ignorance.

The late Allen Stone was a collector in dealers’ disguise. He had an unerring eye for undiscovered quality, and he was a self-confessed “art junkie.”  Craving  the thrill and rush of triuly original art, he befriended artists  as they found their way up the cluttered stairway of his way-too-uptown gallery on  Manhattan's E. 82nd street.  If their art gave him that rush, he bought their work in quantity and kept it.  His Rye residence's interior was overwhelming, a hoarders  wet dream.  My first impression in 1980 was as if some giant up-ended a major museum and shook it so that all the treasures magically settled upright in piles in a dozen rooms.  Then someone cleared paths thru it to the kitchen, bathrooms, stairways and bedrooms.  Absolutely overwhelming not only in quantity, but quality and breadth of styles, periods, cultures, everything. 
I don't remember everything but I must have seen works by Barton Benes for I was shocked and, initially embarrassed when I recently saw reproductions of many of his book works.   My works look like copies of his.  Stunned, I rushed to research, hoping I had made mine before he had made his, but alas, not so.  He started  his in the late 1960s and 70s.  I made my first piece similar to his in 1995.   Allan Stone had several of Benes' book sculptures.   I realize and accept that I must have been influenced by having seen Bene's book artworks in Allan’s glorious pile.
 
I don't work systematically.  I respond to impulses deep in my psyche, following where they lead me.  I don’t cultivate a style, feeling that “style” will reveal itself if I work honestly.  No artist creates in a vacuum.  Everything is connected to something else and something earlier.  I am interested in things outside of art.  Life first, then art.  Art motivates my interests and leads me down paths of awareness to fields to explore.  Techniques, images, themes, and ideas swirl around me as I go.  
Often I am oblivious until they bubble up into awareness.  Like most artists I am influenced by many things including the works of other artists.

In 1994 I accepted a commission to create an interactive sculpture about the law.  The bulk of that monumental sculpture was comprised of books soaked, dried epoxied and screwed to a wooden armature.  As I completed that artwork, I continued to chain, bind, nail and screw open and closed books to wooden panels and sometimes burn pages deep in to them and coat the result with clear epoxy.   I felt my book pieces grew organically out of that work flow.  Around that time I also made works I called Intellectual Tools.  Many of these were juxtapositions of a book and a tool handle.     
 I believe Barton Benes’ powerful book imagery floated to my 1990s consciousness and I didn’t recognize the source.
   If Barton Benes were alive, I would write him to say how much I admire his work and apologize for inadvertently using it.

  Picasso said, “Good artists borrow.  Great artists steal.”  Unfortunately, I don’t feel I stole.  I only borrowed.  Benes retains possession.
untitled(yellow bound book - 1972)   Jim Pallas (black Stack)
Barton Benes, Untitled, circa 1972-74,
mixed media book construction, 7 x 6 3/4 x 8 in.  


The following is some info from Allan Stone Projects, 535 W 22nd Street, 3rd Floor, New York, NY, 10011
Barton Benes (1942 - 2012)
Although known for his work that dealt with the AIDS epidemic, Benes was a prolific artist who continuously worked with everyday objects. The meaning of books and how we perceive them was a favorite subject. Using the book as a symbol for knowledge, Benes conceals the information inherent to the object's purpose either as cheeky irreverence or as a commentary on American cultural values. For instance, a book on corporate financial policy becomes a purse, a book covered with nails relates to African fetish objects and a copy of Sold American, a book on consumer behavior, is punctured with holes.

Benes’ fascination with the fetishism of objects relates to the work of artists such as Paul Thek and Mike Kelley, using the detritus of American society to reveal the dark underbelly of untenable ideals. Many of Benes’ sculptures act as cultural memento mori, manipulated with a sardonic sense of humor. As a collector of African art, cabinet of curiosities and other artifacts, Benes found beauty and meaning in relics of human life and culture, which was endemic to his art.
Barton Benes was born in Westwood, NJ, in 1942. After graduating from Pratt University in the early 1960s, Benes spent over 40 years in New York’s West Village, where he lived and worked in a studio at Westbeth Artists Community. Living as an HIV-positive man, Benes became a social advocate for those suffering from the illness, and served on the board of VISUAL-Aids, an awareness and prevention organization for the disease. He was the recipient of numerous awards, including a 1978 Ariana Foundation Award for Art in Mixed Media, a 1983 Rutgers University Vorhees Grant for Printmaking, and a 1988 Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant. His work has been exhibited at the Centre Pompidou, Paris, the Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art, the New York Public Library, the Boras Konstmuseum, Sweden, the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Katonah Museum of Art, NY, and the North Dakota Museum of Art among others. His work is in the permanent collections of The Art Institute of Chicago, The Smithsonian, The U.S. Mint and the North Dakota Museum of Art.
  





 
Tech Fish
Electro-mechanical Fish.
Time Fetishes
Is time like color,
strictly a 
psychological sensation?


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