Karl Benjamin

American, 1925 - 2012

TG #24, 1960, oil on canvas, 60 x 41 1/4 inches

Born in Chicago, IL in 1925, Karl Benjamin was a figurehead of what critic Jules Langsner termed "hard edge painting". Karl Benjamin was one of the four artists featured in the landmark 1959 “Four Abstract Classicists: Karl Benjamin, Lorser Feitelson, Frederick Hammersley and John McLaughlin” exhibition. It was this exhibition that put hard edge painting on the national and international map.

Starting off as a teacher in California after college. He had to begin teaching art as part of his job. While teaching painting class he began to notice the freedom and perfect intuition of the children in his class. Inspired by their work be began to dive into his own. Eschewing the “boring trucks and trees” he put his colors together in geometric forms that resonated and volleyed into the crisp lively canvases he is know for today.

Benjamin creates each canvas with carefully arranged color and form. Benjamin's sensitivity to the unity of shape and color produced work that was fresh and new. Benjamin’s hard edge style was a contrast to the free flowing New York Abstract Expressionist painters of the time. He and the other painters of hard edge, who were primarily from the west coast, rallied against the New York dominated art world with their equally potent yet more controlled aesthetic.

"Color is the subject matter of painting. It possesses a powerful emotive quality, unique in each individual. Regardless of style or content, color is the material from which paintings are made." This quotation by Karl Benjamin guided his work since he began his career as a painter in the early fifties. 

Karl Benjamin's work has been exhibited throughout the United States and is included in a number of prestigious private and public collections.He received his BA from University of Redlands, Redlands, CA and his MFA at Claremont Graduate School, Claremont, CA. He was awarded the National Endowment for the Arts Grant for Visual Arts in both 1983 and 1989. His work has been featured in numerous museum exhibitions and is included in the public collections of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Museum of Modern Art, Israel; Oakland Museum, Oakland, CA; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, CA; Seattle Art Museum, WA; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, NY, among others. For many years, Benjamin taught painting at Pomona College and Claremont Graduate School, and also served as Professor Emeritus.