Maura Bendett Softens the Hard Edges of Modernism

Los Angeles artist Maura Bendett has devoted her career to an exploration of the liminal space between painting and sculpture, between two and three dimensions. Her newest show, “Vespid Empire,” picks up that thread. There is something of the figurative in these contorted geometrical configurations, a hint of Giacometti’s attenuated men. There is, too, the suggestion of exaggerated motion—blocks and planes tumbling over one another in a frenetic hustle—that recalls the work of Italian Futurists, evoking a similar fascination with the speed of technological advancement. But the fluid dynamism of each multifaceted volume is also tethered to flatness by the planes of color that comprise it.

Tensions between seemingly antipodal states of being abound in all of Bendett’s work, and these shimmering deconstructions of space—which surge up from their pedestals like living Jacob’s Ladders—are no different. Appearing to fluctuate between flatness and plasticity, they also unite a spare, minimalist sensibility with the partitioned surface of mosaics and a florid, gestural occupation of space. Anchored by a metal understructure, each work is then built out using museum board, cement, acrylic, hot glue and glass, adding a spontaneous, even performative element to a practice that might otherwise be deemed sculptural. Displayed on simple bases created by designer Kamal Sandhu, the works engage the somber, traditionally male-dominated canon of Modernist art while softening hard edges with a wry evocation of artisanal craft.

Vespid Empire” is on view at Edward Cella Art and Architecture, Los Angeles, May 3rd–July 5th, 2014.

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