Sadie Benning is one of the most respected and sought-after video artists today. In 1993, when she was invited to be part of the prestigious Whitney Biennial at the age of 20, she was the youngest person to have that honor. She has since been invited back.
Benning probably got her gift of experimental filmmaking from her father James Benning, an avant-garde filmmaker himself. It was he who gave her a Fisher Price PXL-200 toy camera, which began Benning�s odyssey into the world of experimental image making.
Milwaukee-born, Benning now lives in Chicago and is an out artist who often features issues of sexuality in her provocative and influential works. Between 1998 and 2001 she was also a member of Le Tigre, a post-punk electro-pop dance band that specialized in political angst about women, sexuality and society.
She has exhibited at the Wexner Center before and her new show there is vivid, exciting and definitely worth a visit.
�Sadie Benning: Suspended Animation,� which runs through April 15, features large paintings and a video installation.
Her eight-foot-tall paintings of human heads done on paper and canvas are playful, colorful and aesthetically imposing. These zany portraits are gender-ambiguous and seem to celebrate humanity in all its shapes, sizes, forms and identities.
Play Pause is a panoramic video installation made from hundreds of her own drawings. Created and edited entirely at the Wexner Center�s Art and Technology studios, the piece also includes a score by Benning, who is also a musician. It creates an urban landscape that is a frank and vivid look into city life, including its queer subcultures.
�Given her resolutely cross-disciplinary approach, Sadie Benning is a perfect fit for a place like the Wexner Center,� notes the center�s director Sheri Geldin. �Her extensive artistic residency and this culminating exhibition highlight the range of resources we can offer an artist to support the creation of new work.�
Benning has already become an oft-studied artist, with interest from critics and scholars alike. Her fresh and honest approach, coupled with her unique aesthetic and accomplished skills make for interesting inquiries into her mind, her life and her polemics.
Film critic Rick Curnette, writing in The Film Journal, offers Benning the highest praise.
�Benning�s films point towards a specific political agenda,� he writes. �As much as any other contemporary underground filmmaker, Sadie wants to tell you something. Her images are rarely impressionistic. Generally speaking, her films are self-explanatory in terms of narrative and function.�
�She wants you to know that she�s been hurt. That hurt can cause emotional damage. That emotional damage can lead to extreme loneliness,� Curnette continues. �That she says these things is not novel. But her approach, so blisteringly intense and personal, makes her light shine just a little bit brighter than most. Benning�s formal abilities are really no longer to be questioned . . . she is a remarkable filmmaker, both thematically and technically. She�s the rare artist who has found the perfect marriage between form and content. She�ll be remembered as one of the finest experimental filmmakers the medium has ever seen.�
Given how young Benning is, there is no doubt that she will continue to influence the dialogue of contemporary art. Her promise will continue to shine.
The exhibit will run through April 15 at the Wexner Center for the Arts, 1871 North High Street in Columbus. Gallery hours are Tuesday, Wednesday and Sunday from 11 am to 6 pm and Thursday to Saturday 11 am�8 pm. Admission is free. Call 614-2923535 or visit www.wexarts.org.