Ben Schonzeit
b. 1942, Brooklyn, New York

11 April 2022 NYC

 

I am often asked to write an artists statement. Truly the statement is the work on the wall. Yes some artwork has a specific message often political nowadays when this is the artists passion. From my point of view art is experienced in a wholly different sphere outside of message. Although I have been a Photorealist for most my professional life my training, if I had any since I refused to listen to my instructors, was in abstraction. The viewer should make up their own truth about any work of art. Give it time and your imagination will do the rest. For the artist every work the produce has the same DNA. I hav found that curators, art historians and art critics know more about my work than I do. Others will see it more clearly and communicate better about artworks since their medium is words and history. They study the stuff. I just make it.

 

I am a studio artist. I go out with not the world and bring things back inside to make my art. At first long ago I captured images with a camera only. Gradually I brought actual objects to incorporate into my paintings, recently sculpture as well but this is a whole other story. I see myself as both an abstract painter and a Pop artist reflecting life through everyday objects. Looking for universal subjects early on I selected food as my focus. As time went on and I became more interested in color as flowers came to dominate my paintings. I see my work at the juncture of painting and the photograph. The paintings look like photographs while that they are painted is quite obvious. That’s very important to me.

 

Three Cakes/Mousse Cakes

Once I become engaged with a series on a specific subject I go out into the word to build my image. In this case I went to bakeries hunting down cakes, always too many to eat. In “Three Cakes”, I was looking for primary colors, red yellow and blue. The background used here is a poster of a very early flower piece. “Mousse Cakes”

 

Pale Graduate

Vertical paintings are like totems, characters standing up proudly. Column like in their stance. Stand-ins for people. The vase in these painting is a chemist’s 500ml graduate. Pale Graduate is a soft painting with gentle tones, almost sweet. I once asked a friend why he bred orchids. He replied, “Don’t you realize that they are the sexual organs of plants”,.. It’s now Spring in New you and one can see what he was talking about.

 

Amaryllis Swirl

Often I would go to the commercial flower market in New York to buy as many bundles of different kinds of flowers as I could carry. They are the palette for my next group of paintings.

While in Dakar Senegal I bought several meters of glorious printed fabric for possible use as backgrounds in the flower paintings I was working on. Those swirling stars are from that trip. I look at the world and say to myself what can I do with this. How can I create a new experience from the ordinary. So much larger than life size, they become characters, human scale.

I do work in traditional motifs. I think that artists have always seen the same things throughout history. Their times influence their perspective. The mediums available are bent into representations of their age specific to their times. Universal subjects…. Are there any?

 

Large abstracts

I see my work at the juncture of painting and photography. The paintings look like photographs while that they are painted is quite obvious. I photograph is a mechanically produced object while a painting has a very different character. They are organic, alive when the are good. The artist’s goal is always to produce a living thing. When the paintings are large as they often are great swaths of color carry their own message. A square meter of yellow is an abstract statement on its own with or without a reference to an object. I am an artist that needs to know what it’s a picture of. My appreciation of other artists goes far beyond the pictorial. In the end the painting is it’s own thing.

 

I think that the vitality in my work if any is in the simplicity of execution and efficiency of means. Spontaneity gives them life.

 

Photos taken expressly to be painted. Always set up in my studio. Camera sticky with frosting and sugar. Buckets of flowers and cut stems all over the floor. Lights, cameras, various backgrounds and the

 

The representation of what we see helps us to become closer that all that surrounds us.

thumbnail_2014-Three_Cakes-66x66.jpg

“Three Cakes”

Acrylic on Polyester”

168 x 168 cm

thumbnail_Pale_Graduate.jpg

"Pale Graduate”

Acrylic on linen

87w x 130h cm

Education

BFA (1964) Cooper Union, New York, NY


Public Collections

Ackland Art Museum – Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Bayer AG – Leverkusen, Germany
Belfast Museum – Belfast, Ireland
Boymans Museum – VanBoynigen Rotterdam, Holland
Brooklyn Museum of Art – Brooklyn, New York
The Butler Institute of Art – Youngstown, Ohio
California Palace of the Legion of Honor – San Francisco, California
Delaware Art Museum – Wilmington, Delaware
Denver Art Museum – Denver, Colorado
Isetan Museum – Tokyo, Japan
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum – New York, New York
Kunsthalle – Basel, Switzerland
Kunsthalle – Hamburg, Germany
Metropolitan Museum of Art – New York, New York
Milwaukee Art Museum – Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Mississippi Museum of Art – Jackson, Mississippi
Museo de Arte Moderno – Bogota, Colombia
Museum of Contemporary Art – Chicago, Illinois
Neue Nationalgalerie – Berlin, Germany
Neue Galerie – Aachen, Germany
Neues Museum Weserburg – Bremen, Germany
San Antonio Museum of Art – San Antonio, Texas
San Jose Museum of Art – San Jose, California
Ulster Museum – Belfast, Ireland
VanAbben Museum – Eindhoven, Holland
The Winnipeg Art Gallery – Manitoba, Canada

 

 

Selected Bibliography

Ben Schonzeit: My Idea of Play, Kimberly M. Wang, Eardog Productions, 2013. 
Ben Schonzeit: Paintings, Charles A. Riley II, Harry N. Abrams, Inc., Publishers, New York, 2002.
Photorealism: 50 Years of Hyperrealistic Painting, Otto Letze, Hatje Cantz Verlag, Germany, 2013.
Photorealism in the Digital Age, Louis K. Meisel, Harry N. Abrams, Inc., Publishers, New York, 2013.
Picturing America, Deutche Guggenheim, Guggenheim Museum Publications, New York, 2009.
Exactitude: Hyperrealist Art Today, John Russell Taylor, Plus One Publishing, London, 2009.
Shock of the Real: Photorealism Revisited, Boca Raton Museum of Art, Southeastern Printing, Florida, 2008.
Double Take, Rose Art Museum, Waltham, Massachusetts, 2005.
Double Take: Photorealism from the 1960s and ‘70s, Stephanie Molinard, The Rose Art Museum of Brandeis University, Massachusetts, 2005.
Iperrealisti, Gianni Mercurio & Mirella Panepinto, Chiostro Del Bramante, Rome Italy, 2003.
Hyperrealismes USA 1965-1975, Strasbourg Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Hazan, France, 2003.
Flower Power, Le Palais des Beaux-Arts de Lille, Lille, France, 2003.
This is America, Aarhus Kunstmuseum, Denmark, 2001.
Hypermental, Kunsthaus Zürich, Hatje Cantz Verlag, Germany, 2001.
American Realism: Twentieth-Century Drawings and Watercolors, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Harry N. Abrams, Inc., New York, 1986.
Photorealism, Louis K. Meisel, Harry N. Abrams, Inc., Publishers, New York, 1980.