The exhibition will include a recent group of what have come to be recognized as Benes’ signature works, which are reliquaries containing thematically-related objects of special significance. Additionally, there will be several brand new works in which the artist uses materials such as mardi gras beads, pencils, fur, and feathers in fanciful collages and over-the-top assemblages.
Sticks and Stones and Par Avion are the largest reliquaries in the exhibition. In them, Benes has gathered an idiosyncratic selection of relics relating to wood, rocks and flight. The relics are displayed within decorative mounts cut from the lids of antique cigar boxes and placed into shadowboxes with frames covered in paper collage. Snips holds scraps of fabric, such as swatches of fabric from Christo installations, Mark Rothko’s necktie and Joan Rivers’ cocktail napkin from her daughter Melissa’s wedding at the Plaza Hotel, December 12, 1998. Other reliquaries organize and present objects relating to bones, crime and home décor. Black and White contain hundreds of tiny miscellaneous items of no significance but that all are either black or white and were scavenged from the nooks and crannies of Benes’ long-occupied studio in the West Village. (The contents of his cozily crowded apartment including his collections of African art, antiquities, taxidermy animals, voodoo altars and a selection of his most personal artworks will be bequeathed to the North Dakota Museum of Art which will permanently recreate the entire extraordinary environment.)
The newest works are diverse and include spheres encrusted with ordinary materials such as crayons or toy soldiers that make the orbs into powerful fetish objects. A decoratively carved round frame encircles a powerfully shattered religious statue. Other striking new works offer glimpses of materials through meticulously cut-out silhouettes: Safari depicts five glamour girls “attired” in feathers, leopard, mink, alligator and sable. And he came into a huge supply of yellow pencils that he has fashioned into the shapes of tools. Asked recently to describe his primary medium, Benes said simply, “Glue.” Barton Benes (b. 1942) has exhibited at Lennon, Weinberg twice before, in 1999 and 2002.