Gershon Benjamin (January 6, 1899- September, 2 1985)
Born in Romania and art educated in Montreal, Canada, Gershon Benjamin became an American Modern Expressionist best known for his subtle emotive simplified abstractions that record his intuitive impression of the soul of his subjects and evoke a sense of contentment. Although he chose abstraction over realism in style, Benjamin retained an eye for recognizable forms including figures, landscapes, still life, and urban scenes from his direct life experience. Although he retained a fondness for form, he dispensed with the superficial appearance of objects, illusion of depth associated with Western art since the Renaissance, and the fleeting sensations of Impressionism in favor of using sparse line and color shapes to evoke complex emotional responses to the subtle yet powerful visual cues of gesture and atmosphere.
Benjamin’s emotive balance between realism and abstraction earned him a distinct place in American art history. Yet this did not come easily or during his lifetime. In the 1930's, the dominant Regionalists and American Scene artists rejected his abstract motifs for being not American enough in subject, setting, or style to satisfy their narrow concept of nationalism; rather Benjamin advocated that art was a universal language to convey feeling rather than doctrine and consciously avoided the limited narrative of that tradition. In the 1940's, Benjamin’s generic subject matter was overlooked by the Social Realists for not depicting American Depression Era imagery and social messages, even though his images of common people and public places extended the legacy of the Ashcan School. In the 1950s, when the New York School of Abstract Expressionism evolved away from object representation, the figural aspect of Benjamin's art, however abstract, found no place in that movement. And in the 1960s, the trendy Pop Art of mass media and mass production did not accommodate Benjamin's individual subtle psychological works of art. And other later movements including Minimalism and Conceptual art possessed little in common with this work.
Today, Benjamin is recognized along with Milton Avery, Yasuo Kuniyoshi, and John Marin as American Modern Art masters who forged an organic aesthetic zygote of European pioneered abstraction and American culture that is as American as it is universal. Style cues include simplified forms with a thoughtful primitivism, subjective interpretation with poetic expression, a flattened perspective that blends foreground and background, subtle color fields, and a canvas totality where all parts of the canvas hold equal import to integrate subject and context. The Gershon Benjamin Foundation owns the artist estate and archives, and it preserves the memory of the artist. Spanierman Gallery of NY is the exclusive representative of the artist estate and archives on behalf of the Foundation. Benjamin’s works are held in the collections of museums and art lovers around the world.