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 Ben Benson  (1927 - 2002)

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Lived/Active: Illinois      Known for: Mixed media geometric abstraction

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Ben Benson
from Auction House Records.
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Obituary. Chicago Tribune, November 8, 2002

Ben Benson, 74

Artist known for small, gemlike paintings

By Alan G. Artner, Tribune art critic.

Ben Benson, 74, a burly Chicago-area artist who for decades created delicate geometric abstractions that achieved a sublimity beyond local taste, died Tuesday, Nov. 5, of cardiac arrest.  He recently had undergone radiation treatment for cancer, following years of debilitation from secondary diabetes.

A Northwestern University journalism graduate in the 1950s, Mr. Benson turned to visual art as a means of gaining the pleasure he found lacking in writing.  Nevertheless, his first novel, "Cain's Wife," published under his formal name, O.G. Benson, became a cult favorite and was declared an "unsuspected classic" before being reprinted in the mid-1980s.

His small, gemlike paintings--any work larger than a foot square was huge for him--were admired for their purity and grace, despite their carrying on an early modern tradition that found little favor in Chicago.  Even while exhibiting regularly at the Richard Gray Gallery since 1972, Mr. Benson found himself passed over by museum exhibitions purporting to trace the history of contemporary painting in the city.

"He was, I think, a dedicated artist with conviction," said Richard Gray. "He never wavered from his vision.  There was a time when it might have been easy to look at his work as derivative, but it consistently showed his own take on things. He had an exquisite sensibility."

He was an avid reader, and anyone engaging him would be hard-pressed to match his depth of interest not only in literature and the visual arts but also in Eastern philosophy and cooking.

One of Mr. Benson's two daughters recalled his fondness for playing Kabuki music in the middle of the night; the other named her daughter Tashira after one of his favorite characters in an Akira Kurosawa film.

"In close to 50 years of marriage, I never had one minute bored," said his wife, Betty

Besides his wife, survivors include two daughters, Kristin and Inga; two brothers, Dale Benson and Bruce Werschem; a sister, Sandra Pomerening; and a granddaughter, Tashira Dulac.  Visitation will be from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday in Donnellan Family Funeral Home, 10045 Skokie Blvd., Skokie.

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