Illustrated in The New Constructivism of Fletcher Benton.
Born in the coal, nugget and iron-producing district of southern Ohio, Benton was a successful sign painter as a youth. After serving time in the Navy, he graduated from Miami University, Oxford, Ohio with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 1956. Thereafter he moved to San Francisco, and began as an instructor at the California College of Arts and Crafts and then went to Europe, traveling by his motorcycle through Scandinavia, Holland, Belgium and France; he spent some time in Paris and then in New York and later moved back to San Francisco.
Benton was a part of the Beatnik movement in San Francisco during the ‘50s and ‘60s working as a sign painter by day and an expressionist artist (painting) by night. In 1961, he had a solo exhibition at the California Palace Legion of Honor, showing his portraits of fellow artists like David Simpson and William Morehouse. Frustrated with the limitations of paint on canvas, Benton began to work with movement in geometric pattern pieces and boxes which he was familiar with from his work in commercial signs. This was at the beginning of the kinetic movement; Benton worked largely in isolation, unaware of other efforts of kinetic artists. His early works of this series were exhibited at Gump’s Gallery in San Francisco.
In the late 1970s, he abandoned kinetic art, switching to a more traditional media for sculpture: bronze and steel. These works are designed to be viewed from all angles and have often been characterized as new constructivism; he continues to work in this style today. Some of his most popular series in this style are the Folded Square Alphabets and Numericals, Folded Circle, Donuts, and Steel Watercolors.
Benton has large-scale steel sculptures permanently installed world-wide including San Francisco’s Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall,Grounds For Sculpture sculpture park in Hamilton, NJ, the city of Cologne, Germany, the city of Berlin, among others.
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