Frank Benson Fosters Déjà Vu in New York and Los Angeles

Out in Los Angeles last weekend, we opened the door to the Overduin & Kite gallery in Hollywood, looking for Frank Benson’s new exhibition, and found the pristine white space nearly empty.

Only a single sculpture was present, a life-size, grey skinned woman wearing a shiny black tunic and chunky sunglasses, her hair pulled into a bun. A circular vase sat at her feet, propped against the pedestal on which she stood. For one moment she looked like a real person. But then it became clear that she was completely frozen: an almost perfect copy of a woman, with almost every skin pore and muscle strangely visible.

T Magazine shares the story of how Mr. Benson made it:

“He started with a photo of a model (who also happens to be a close friend), spent months working with a technician to ‘sculpt’ a 3-D rendering and then created 3-D prints through a relatively new process called rapid prototyping. These prints were then cast in bronze at foundry in Upstate New York. ‘I liked the image because it is at once very classical, totally contemporary and a little ’80s, making it very hard to place chronologically,’ he explained.”

We had the uncanny feeling that we had seen the work before, but we couldn’t place it. So we signed the gallery’s guestbook, said hello to two prominent New York collectors who were in the back of the gallery and picked upa press release. The work, we learned, is called Human Statue (Jessie) (2011).

And then, as Gallerist got in our rental car and hopped back on Sunset Boulevard it hit us: we had seen the work on the Taxter & Spengemann website.

A quick visit to the site confirmed it, and earlier this week, back in New York, we paid the gallery a visit. There she was again, standing in the center of the gallery, impassive, hiding behind her shades. But there was one key difference, one of the gallery directors told us. We stared at her for a long time. Was her bun different? Was she holding a different pose? The director pointed to the tunic. In New York, Jessie sports an understated, far less lustrous black; it is a serious tunic, a uniform fit for the East Coast.

As it happens, the work is an edition of four, and the other two are also on view at the moment, at the Hydra Workshop in Hydra, Greece, and the Fundação Bienal in São Paulo, Brazil. That quartet represents a remarkable feat: four intricately produced bronze sculptures, that most prized artistic material, transformed into terms that one could almost describe as digital. They are replicated almost identically and sent around the world. It could be the Neoclassical version of Martin Kippenberger’s Metro-Net (1993-1997).

Of course, such comments could be made of almost any editioned sculpture, but Mr. Benson’s obsessive attention to detail and the simultaneous display of the works heightens the uncanny quality of the copy, pushing it into some other zone. (One does not have this same feeling when viewing two castings of a gritty Giacometti, for instance.) That exhibition technique also begs another question: Will anyone complete the full Jessie grand slam, visiting all four of her locations?

Oddly, the same day that we visited Jessie at Taxter & Spengemann, a friend who is a New York painter sent us this text message: ‘Are you in LA? Just saw your signature in Overduin & Kite.” We almost answered yes.

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