Gone but not forgotten

Abstraction 1955

Marketing and Public Relations Intern Kelly Wilson reminisces on the life of California artist Karl Benjamin.

Every Tuesday and Thursday as I walk up the stairs from the lobby to the staff offices, I am confronted with Karl Benjamin’s artwork, Abstraction. The geometric, yet distorted shapes and interesting combination of colors never cease to grab my attention. Unfortunately, we recently lost this important California artist at his home in Claremont, California on July 26th at age 86. Karl Benjamin, along with John McLaughlin, Frederick Hammersly and Lorser Feitelson, also displayed in our current exhibition, Abstract Classicists, made their contribution to Southern California art when they founded the Abstract Classicism movement in retaliation to the popular and chaotic East Coast Abstract Expressionism in the late 1950’s.
Benjamin began his career not as an artist, but as an elementary school teacher who was requested to incorporate art into his curriculum. He learned from a crayon, paper and the intuitiveness of his young students to produce his artwork focused on color and shape. The beginning of his artist career reminds me of our own program to promote young artists and even display their artwork in our Young Artists Society Gallery. I love that the 4th grade students’ artwork hangs in the museum along with an artist like Karl Benjamin.

Karl Benjamin

Once a West Coast renowned artist, Benjamin’s talents are now widely displayed and appreciated by many even after his passing. Now, as I walk past the painting on my way to work I will not only be stopped by its aesthetic appeal, but will remember the contribution Karl Benjamin and the Abstract Classicists made to California art.