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De Saisset Rethinks Art

Exhibits explore artists’ methods and materials

Inside the Sculptor's Studio

How are large works of public art created? The public is invited to find out by visiting “Fletcher Benton: The Artist’s Studio” at Santa Clara University’s de Saisset Museum from now through Dec. 6.

The exhibition uses mural-size photographs of the artist’s studio to bring visitors inside the process of creating his signature monumental sculptures. It also incorporates the sounds, textures, and even smells of the artist’s studio, as well as a video of Benton discussing his studio practice. 

The focus is “Fletcher Benton’s practice—how he executes these large-scale works and what that process is for him,” said Lindsey Kouvaris, curator of exhibits and collections at the de Saisset Museum.

The exhibition includes several finished pieces of varying size as well as a number of the three-dimensional models that Benton uses to create his sculptures. 

One of the sculptures is too large to fit inside the museum, so it will be installed outdoors. 

Benton, a San Francisco-based metal sculptor who is known for his public artwork, tends to use geometric forms rather than figures in his sculptures, Kouvaris said. 

Benton’s best known sculpture in the South Bay is a good illustration of this: the large geometric shapes in Palo Alto on the corner of El Camino Real and Page Mill Road.

The traveling exhibition was organized by the Sonoma Valley Museum of Art. “People who do not make sculpture don’t have a sense of how it comes to be, how it goes from raw material to a work of art,” Kouvaris said. “This is sort of a behind-the-scenes experience.”

A companion exhibition, “Fletcher Benton: In Motion,” will showcase Benton’s kinetic work: sculpture that moves. This was a focus of Benton’s early career in the 1960s and 70s. 

The sculptures depict motion in a variety of ways. In some it’s clear how the motion works, in others the pattern is so complex that the action appears random, and in still others the movement is so slow that it’s difficult to perceive. The exhibition is built from the de Saisset Museum’s private collection as well as Benton’s own collection and will include several pieces that have not often been seen in public. 

Turning Garbage into Art

Artists have a role to play in building sustainable communities. This fall, an exhibition at the de Saisset Museum called “Reduce, Reuse, Reimagine” will explore what art can teach us about what we throw away. The exhibition is co-curated by Kouvaris and Ryan Reynolds, assistant professor of art and art history at Santa Clara University. It includes works by artists that use exclusively recycled materials.

Using repurposed materials to create works of art is an old tradition, Kouvaris said. What makes these works different is that the artists are “not just buying something from a thrift store—they’re diverting things from the landfill. They’re using what we might consider trash to make new works of art.”

Kouvaris said that while putting together the exhibition they were pleasantly surprised at the number of artists who are working with repurposed materials. 

They were also happy with “the sheer variety of mediums they’re able to work in using reclaimed materials.” The show will include works on paper, sewn objects, and a sound installation. The art will be made from materials that range from reclaimed wood to discarded books.

“They’re really beautiful—you’re not going to look at it and say, ‘Oh wow, that's trash,’” Kouvaris said. The exhibition is made possible by a grant from Santa Clara University’s Sustainable Resource Initiative. It will run from now to Dec. 6 and Jan. 10 to Feb. 2, 2014.


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