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Sadie Benning, Transitional Effects

Participant Inc.
253 East Houston Street, 212-254-4334
East Village / Lower East Side
September 18 - October 23, 2011
Reception: Sunday, September 18, 7 - 9 PM
Web Site

From September 18 – October 23, 2011, PARTICIPANT INC presents Transitional Effects, a solo exhibition by Sadie Benning. Recently focused on installations that include drawings, paintings, video, and sound works, Benning’s practice explores notions of abstraction, identity, and the legacy of minimalism as an irresolute form, often contested by its original practitioners. Well-known as a film/video artist, Benning’s arrival at object- making occurred through another medium, video-much like Donald Judd and Dan Flavin’s practice evolved from painting, and Robert Morris’ physicalized sculpture grew from his background in performance. Benning also notes that she is often “inspired by things that bother me.”

If minimal art was a response to the implicit power relations that surrounded art production in the ‘60s, against which practitioners of minimalism, conceptualism, and institutional critique, for example, sought to delineate their work-Benning, as well, has sought to depart from a reliance on self-obsolescing tools associated with video (equipment, technology, manufacturing), exploring the handmade through materials that maintain a longer, more independent history. The term Transitional Effects makes reference to predetermined video editing templates used to bridge one image to the next: wipes, fades, cuts. As well, this title reflects the representational aspect of Benning’s seemingly abstract paintings. Contrasting adjoining color panels (wood with modeled joint compound, sanded and painted with high gloss and matte spray paint) purport to be poured from a mold, composing an indeterminate medium, at once fabricated and bearing a human touch. The paintings literally denote a static polarity between two unequal parts, insinuating a suspended state of anxiety, a pause that is perhaps reflective of our shared, collective condition-caught between one thing and the next.

Informed by source materials available growing up in the ‘80s, Benning’s drawings and paintings are as much a part of her daily life as making video, sampling in music, zines and comics, embodying the pleasures and dangers of supposedly inheriting everything. Her geometric works in painting and sculpture represent a long-developing parallel to her visual and auditory storytelling through video, positing her engagement with abstraction as a performance-based exchange, in both its production and reception. Although language is receding, Benning’s object-based work is often accompanied by audio, either in the form of cassettes or homemade records. The single-channel video, Old Waves, Record One, Old Waves, Record Two, shot on a 1960s black and white tube camera and comprised of handwritten text and music from a pair of pop records made by the artist, will be on view as part of Transitional Effects.

Dan Graham, in his “My Works for Magazine Pages: ‘A History of Conceptual Art’,” noted: “While American Pop Art of the early 1960s referred to the surrounding media world of cultural information as a framework, Minimalist art works of the mid-to-late 1960s seemed to refer to the gallery interior cube as the ultimate contextual frame of reference or support for the work.” However, these frameworks could not long maintain the structural transparency necessary to distinguish critical artworks within an economy that consistently sought to assimilate them. Benning’s shifting between formats and mediums perhaps queries both the structure of social media and the art institutional frame. However widely screened, the circulation of Benning’s early work reflected a pre-Internet sphere of communication (letters, zines, cassettes sent in the mail) and her videos were distributed and shared using such communal methods, belying notions of the mass consumption of media. Even more so, Benning’s paintings require the presence of the viewer, in one location, to apprehend moments of suspended transition.

Sadie Benning was born in Madison, Wisconsin in 1973. She received her MFA from Bard College in 1997. Her videos have been exhibited internationally in museums, galleries, universities and film festivals since 1990, including solo exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art, NY; Whitney Museum of American Art, NY; Film Society of Lincoln Center, NY; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; and Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center, NY among others. Her work is in permanent collections including the Museum of Modern Art, NY; The Fogg Art Musuem, Cambridge, MA; and the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN; and has been included in group exhibitions including Annual Report: 7th Gwangju Biennale (2008); White Columns Annual (2007); Whitney Biennial (2000 and 1993); Building Identities, Tate Modern (2004); Remembrance and the Moving Image, Australian Centre for the Moving Image (2003); Video Viewpoints, Museum of Modern Art, NY (2002); American Century, Whitney Museum of American Art (2000); Love’s Body, Tokyo Museum of Photography (1999); Scream and Scream Again: Film in Art, Museum of Modern Art Oxford (1996-7), and Venice Biennale (1993).

Benning’s recent work has increasingly incorporated video installation, sound, sculpture, and drawing. Solo exhibitions include Sadie Benning: Suspended Animation, Wexner Center for the Arts, 2007; Form of… a Waterfall, Orchard Gallery, 2008; Play Pause, Dia: Chealsea and The Power Plant, Toronto, 2008. She is a former member and co-founder, with Kathleen Hanna and Johanna Fateman, of the music group Le Tigre. She has received grants and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, Andrea Frank Foundation, National Endowment of the Arts, and the Rockefeller Foundation. Awards include Wexner Center Residency Award in Media Arts, National Alliance for Media Arts & Culture Merit Award, Grande Video Kunst Award, and the LA Film Critics Circle Award. She is currently Co-Chair of the Film & Video Department at Bard College’s MFA Program.
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