I had never heard of Karl Benjamin (or the other painters either) and found his work very intriguing. He painted overlapping and interlocking precise forms in startling color combinations that still look fresh. In a 2002 interview (NY Times), Benjamin explains that he stopped painting back in 1995. A bad back, a bad hip and “years of drinking too much,” he said, made handling the canvases difficult. “I started getting too creaky to haul these things around
"A self-taught artist, Mr. Benjamin began painting in 1950 while working as a grade school teacher. His principal started it all by asking him to add 47 minutes a week of art instruction to the curriculum."
“I bought some crayons and paper,” he said. “And the kids drew trucks, trees, mountains. That was boring, so I said, No trucks, no trees. And they said, What should we do? I said the right thing, even though I didn’t have any background in art. I said, Be quiet and concentrate.”
That exercise — ultimately a lesson in “finding the right color to put down next to another” — is not far from Mr. Benjamin’s own sense of composition. As he likes to say, “Color is the subject matter of painting.”
“As an abstract painter, you’re always flying in the face of your country’s values,” he said. “All of a sudden (Morris) Louis is selling a lot, but I’ve never made a lot of money. That’s not what it’s about. It’s about getting the colors right.”
These are words that ought to be inscribed in letters 20 feet high over the entrance to every art department or art school in the country. Be quiet, concentrate and get the colors right. Thank you Mr. Benjamin!