Recent Works By Michelle Benoit, Jeff Kellar,
Arno Kortschot, & Steve Murphy
to Open Saturday, March 28
Gems , an exhibition of recent works by Michelle Benoit, Jeff Kellar, Arno Kortschot, and Steve Murphy, will be on display March 28 through May 2 at William Campbell Contemporary Art. The show will include a selection of work by each of the four artists, all of whom exhibit an interest in geometry, abstraction, color, and spatial relationships.
Gems will feature two- and three-dimensional pieces that embrace total abstraction through concentrated segments of color, line, and shape. All harness concepts of light as well, whether endemic or atmospheric, to define or expand the space they occupy. Layers of medium and meaning are present throughout the collections, inviting viewers to dive deep.
Michelle Benoit's three-dimensional wall sculptures juxtapose slick, solid pieces of Lucite, incorporating sections of bare wood into some. The resulting compositions layer nature with manmade, light with space, or line with shape to produce a depth of history and space-a narrative of time and place. The artist has constructed the pieces with reclaimed materials to harness the past. For her, the constructions serve as an act of remembering, or a physical manifestation of things that characterize us broadly and individually, presented in rich, multidimensional color and light.
She writes, "Inspiration for me is mostly drawn from the natural world where I have found physical evidence of time. I collect, record, and categorize these visual signifiers with various media such as glue casts, tracings, wallpaper, sketches, and photographs. Color schemes from this body of work have been extracted from the walls of my family home. Excised layers of paint, plaster, and wallpaper have been removed and reworked. Each hue represents a time frame in that home. Some have left vivid impressions, others are tints from inhabitants that were there before us."
Jeff Kellar seeks to reveal the magnitude of basic compositional elements, to employ the power of simplicity to transform understated shapes, lines, and colors into a compelling story that is at once universal and personal. His monochromatic paintings, a mixture of resin, clay, and pigment on aluminum, build depth in the subtle variations of color, while also evoking the ebb and flow of the natural world. Painted stripes recall sensations of light in landscapes and seascapes, or how an interior space might transform as sunlight moves through it. He refers to such effects as "minimal luminism," wherein the intricacies of the outside world have been reduced to their most fundamental impressions of light and line.
"The paintings that are made with light colors of similar value mimic the effects of sky and water at dawn," says Kellar. "The subtle color contrasts create the effect of a slow scintillation or the sense of a slow progression that is felt even more than seen. The paintings made with deep saturated colors of similar value also mimic the natural world. They have the effect of exciting then soothing the eyes, in the manner of looking away from the bright scene of mid-day into the cool deep light reflected under the trees."
Arno Kortschot's sculptures consist of unembellished forms that recall traditional elements of minimalism and geometric abstraction, much like the architecture of his native Netherlands. Ordered lines and angles converge, carving out their own space-within-the-space to establish presence and inspire thoughtful interaction with viewers. Further, their shiny metal literally reflects the contents of its surroundings, creating additional dimension and providing viewers with what he calls a "visceral, physical experience."
Zinc is Kortschot's primary medium, and allows him to create spare, solid surfaces that are purely entrenched, while at the same time evolving, subject to their surroundings. "The patina of zinc, created over time through air, the environment, and especially by a person's touch, brings out the unique character and is considered a part of the art," he says. Kortschot augments these monochromatic zinc planes with hard-edged swaths of vivid color that emphasize the form and space specific to each piece. Fully integrated within the work, the bright hues often appear as if the zinc curtain has been pulled back to expose the form's most fundamental, dynamic element. Some sculptures also incorporate light, which produces a subtle glow from within, adding dimension and revealing the palpable energy contained inside each piece.
Steve Murphy's sculptures focus on formal design elements and how they relate to one another and the surrounding space. His new collection, consisting of brightly painted wood sculptures, explores negative space within the non-referential forms in a more obvious way than his past work did. Solid yet nimble lines curve around, and at times completely encase, the negative space as it contracts, expands, and rests amid the surfaces.
Murphy's wood pieces are sleek and austere, adorned only in layers of smooth, lively pigments that emphasize each composition's exterior characteristics. Though his sculptures appear flawless and uniform, their hand-worked character remains, visible in the lingering wood grain or occasional brushstroke. They are layered and manipulated-painted, sanded, and painted again. The end result is a visually stimulating coalescence of contradictions.
All four artists work in universal, nonrepresentational formats, creating artwork that evokes the perfection of industry, while retaining physical and spiritual ties to the natural world. They are unique, and therefore rare, gems to be mined for their enticing visual and psychological narratives.
Michelle Benoit
Rhode Island artist Michelle Benoit has exhibited her work in solo and group exhibitions across Rhode Island and Iowa, and throughout the United States, in New York City, Brooklyn, Houston, and Scottsdale, among others. Awards have included an Artist Resource Trust Grant from the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation and a Merit Fellowship in Painting from the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts.
Her work has appeared in numerous publications, including the book Art Voices: 101 Contemporary Artists, Providence Journal, Newport Daily News, and Visual Art Source. Benoit's artwork appears in the collections of Memorial Sloan Kettering in New York City, the University of Iowa Museum in Iowa City, the Swain School of Design in New Bedford, Massachusetts, the Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra in East Providence, and various private collections.
Benoit has taught art at Roger Williams University in Bristol, Rhode Island; Bridgewater State College in Bridgewater, Massachusetts; and at the Fuller Museum in Brockton, Massachusetts. She also owned and operated Bluefish Painting, a green interior decorative painting company in Bristol, Rhode Island. Michelle Benoit earned her MFA and MA in painting from the University of Iowa, and a BFA from Rhode Island College in Providence. She also attended the Swain School of Design.
Jeff Kellar
Jeff Kellar has exhibited work across the United States for more than two decades, in New York, Los Angeles, Albuquerque, Boston, Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth, Miami, Philadelphia, and San Francisco, as well as throughout his home state of Maine. He has received numerous prizes and awards, including the coveted Adolf and Esther Gottlieb Individual Support Grant in 2014 and the Purchase Prize at the Portland Museum of Art's 2007 Maine Biennial.
Kellar's art has been featured in many publications, among them Glasstire, Modern Dallas, THE magazine, Sculpture magazine,the Boston Sunday Herald, the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram, the Philadelphia Inquirer,and the Portland Phoenix. His work also appears in Maine Art New by Edgar Allen Beem, and in the 2007 Main Biennial exhibition catalog published by the Portland Museum of Art.
Kellar's paintings appear in various public collections, including those of the Portland Museum of Art in Maine; the University of Maine, Farmington; Illinois' Elmhurst Art Museum; and the Microsoft Collection in Seattle. He had a residency and taught at the University of Southern Maine, and was a visiting artist at the University of Maine Farmington. He also served for two years on the Maine Arts Commission Advisory Panel. Jeff Kellar earned a BA from the University of Pennsylvania.
Arno Kortschot
Born in the Netherlands, Arno Kortschot now resides in Vancouver, British Columbia. He embarked on his fine art career in 1990, and since that time has exhibited work throughout his native country and Canada, as well as in Germany. In the United States, his sculpture has appeared at venues in Atlanta, Dallas, Miami, Palm Springs, and Costa Mesa, California.
Kortschot has received commissions to create works for a number of public and private collections, including the Sanders Collection, which acquired three pieces to include in its Architectural Solutions collection in 2014. He has been featured in Collect, Western Living, Art NL, and Elle magazines; the Vancouver Sun; and on the television show, Avro's Kunstblik. Arno Kortschot earned his BFA in sculpture from the Academy of Fine Arts in Kampen, the Netherlands.
Steve Murphy
Texas artist Steve Murphy has exhibited work widely around the state, in galleries and museums in Fort Worth, Dallas, Arlington, Austin, Corpus Christi, Galveston, Houston, and San Antonio, among others. Nationally, he has shown in such places as Miami, Santa Fe, Tucson, and North Carolina. In 2018, he had a solo exhibition as part of the Venice Architectural Biennale.
Collections featuring Murphy's work include those of Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas; the University of Houston; the University of Arizona in Tucson; the Encana Corporation in Plano; and Houston's Sysco Corporation, Noble Energy, and Bush Intercontinental Airport.
Murphy's work has appeared in various publications, including Texas Abstract, Contemporary Art of The Southwest, Art Lies, Sculpture magazine, the Houston Chronicle, Houston Post, San Antonio Express, and Fort Worth's Star-Telegram, among others. Steve Murphy earned his BA from the University of Houston.

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