Erik Benson’s exquisite show “Detouring” reassembled and animated urban blight. With layered slivers and strips of collaged acrylic paint, Benson creates vistas of his Bushwick, Brooklyn, neighborhood. His recent works, show here, tend to be grimier than past efforts and somewhat atmospheric as a result of the artist’s direct painting on canvas (whether by hand or sprayer). Yet while displaying wear on the surfaces, the paintings also retain the graphic precision of the previous work.
These pieces revealed laborious design and painterly dissolution. In Americana (2011), a construction-stalled building is pushed backward in a scrim of gray haze, calling attention to a delicate London Plane tree in the foreground, a recurring motif throughout the exhibition. Fences are depicted in these works as shriveled grids with a plastic flaccidness and deflated rigidity, as can be seen in London Plane (2011). Deluge (2011) is an all-consuming network of enmeshed lines that holds the viewer just on the outside of the picture’s fringes.
In this exhibition, Benson pushed the limits of his collaged-paint technique. Unabashedly exploiting the plastic materiality of acrylic paint, Benson also collaged paper and paint onto canvas, in works like Overgrowth (Billboard) (2011), and Post No Bills (2011), and then removed sections of paper to replicate the effect of palimpsests on billboards and construction fences. These paintings express a compelling tension in the way they disrupt the strictly ordered modernist structures in the scenes and show how natural conditions of light can eclipse architecture and human-built environments.