“A certain amount of total disregard for the logic of the painting.”

Steve DiBenedetto, “Occupant,” 2009 Mixed media on canvas 96 x 70.”

In Time Out New York,  T. J. Carlin’s “Studio Visit” series continues with Steve DiBenedetto whose work was recently included in “Just what is it that makes today’s painting so different, so appealing?” at Gering Lopez Gallery. Here’s an excerpt from the interview.

T.J. Carlin: I�ve heard you talk about the length of time it takes you to complete a painting. Is it always the same?
Steve DiBenedetto: Usually they have to go through some really unpredictable stages. Typically a painting will start and feel like it�s moving in a linear fashion, but then it ends up feeling completely dysfunctional�or actually too functional�and usually needs to have something traumatizing happen to it. So I end up getting ensnared. I feel like that�s ultimately my process: It�s sort of like having to weasel my way out.

T.J. Carlin: What constitutes a �traumatizing� act?
Steve DiBenedetto: Usually it means doing something to the painting that runs the risk of possibly destroying it or ruining it. Like, Oh God, you shouldn�t do that! But usually it ends up being fairly liberating in some weird way. That big one over there was a whole other painting at one time that I eventually got just disgusted with. Now it�s been�traumatized! It�s upside down, it�s had all this stuff smeared on it. I try to set up those conditions where there�s, like, a certain amount of total disregard for the logic of the painting.

T.J. Carlin: The cultural theorist Paul Virilio talks about the architecture of disaster, as well as about speed and the breaking of cultural surfaces. I feel like your paintings break the surface in a two-dimensional way.
Steve DiBenedetto: Well, usually it comes down to a type of figure-ground thing. One recent painting ended up being a kind of underground chamber. There was a kind of organic-looking thing in the corner that started out as the idea of an ornamental, architectural gargoyle, or a hunchback. I was thinking about the Hunchback of Notre Dame, sitting out on some ledge. One thing led to another, and it ended up being a reference to Gothic stuff or some of this crystalline Minimalism we�re dealing with now. If I�m going to end up standing for anything down the line, it would be wanting to give more permission for a single painting to inhabit clashing tendencies, let�s say. And hopefully not in a collaged way. I don�t like the idea of collaging, like David Salle, whom I respect. That�s more about letting things coexist independently. I like the idea that maybe the painting is fractured, but essentially uniform.

Read the entire interview here.

Steve DiBenedetto has work in “Jr. and Son’s,” curated by Joe Bradley at Zach Feuer Gallery, New York, NY. Through January 23, 2010. Artists include Peter Acheson, William Copley, Steve DiBenedetto, Carroll Dunham, Jason Fox, William Hawkins, Joe Light, Chris Martin, Leif Ritchey, Bill Saylor, Don Van Vliet, Michael Williams, S. Clay Wilson, Joe Zucker.


  1. I can relate to DiBenedetto's idea of treating the painting in a seemingly irreverent manner in order to allow it to come full circle. The first time I did this, it was in utter frustration at the work; it just wasn't coming together. I turned it upside down, wiped off most of the paint, took a break, came back, re-working the darn thing in a semi-haphazard way, and voila! A break through. It ended up being one of my best pieces at that time, and a valuable lesson in letting go and "traumatizing" the painting.

    Wonderful interview.

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