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 John Beech  (1964 - )

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Lived/Active: California / England      Known for: kinetic abstract sculpture, drawing, mixed media

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Ad Code: 3
John Beech Untitled (black drawing 1)
Untitled (black drawing 1)
2009 12? x 9?

Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
John Beech refers to himself as "the everyday reductionist." Using the humblest of materials, from car floor mats to raw plywood, he creates objects, many of them called rotating paintings, that are at the same time rough-hewn and elegant, intricately designed and straightforward, dead serious and subtly humorous.

His work falls into both categories of painting and sculpture. Many of his works are monochromatic, usually round, project from walls, and can be rotated on their ball bearing bases. Some of his projecting paintings are narrow, eight-feet long, and are anchored on one end to walls. Other paintings are glue paintings, made with Elmer's glue, and some are floor pieces called obstacles and rolling platforms.

Beech's work is represented in such public collections as the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, in private collections such as that of playwright Edward Albee, and has been reviewed by Kenneth Baker, David Bonetti and Roberta Smith, among many others.

Beech is interested in "the object quality of things." He notes that all paintings are objects, but that in most paintings, the front surface is meant to receive all the attention. His own work is more about coating a form. Most of his pieces are hung or placed in a way that leaves the back side visible.

Inspiration for his type of presentation came from Beech's work as a professional installation technician for museums such as the Guggenheim. Having seen many paintings in their "behind the scenes" state, he became intrigued with the idea of showing "what a painting is when it's not on display." He is interested in letting the form and materials demonstrate themselves.

Another important element in Beech's work is his choice of materials. "I'm interested in fusing the visual vocabulary of utility and abstract art," he says. Ordinary objects such as dumpsters and patched subway platforms catch his eye and provide the basis for nuanced works of art. He acknowledges the influence of contemporary masters such as Donald Judd, but sees his own aesthetic as "street level" and engaged, as opposed to the polish and detachment of many reductionists. His aim is to take the absolutely ordinary and create an extraordinary experience for the viewer. His attention is particularly drawn to makeshift solutions for problems or things that have deteriorated, such as a moped held together by duct tape that he once saw in New York.

Spontaneity is essential for Beech. A piece may change radically during the process of fabrication; accidents and obstacles are viewed as opportunities rather than sources of irritation. In his view, letting go of expectations can often lead to something much more interesting than the original conception. This easy attitude meshes well with Beech's attraction to things that are odd, edgy, even a bit awkward. The combination imparts a subtle humor to many of his works, an attitude that nudges us to realize that art can be made (sometimes even unconsciously) of the most ordinary of materials, materials that we see around us all the time but usually fail to recognize as art.

Beech's interest in using ordinary materials in unexpected ways stems partly from his experiences in Morocco and India. In these countries many materials were recycled for different uses simply out of necessity. Beech was still a student when he traveled to Fez, an ancient city in the north of Morocco. Impressed with the combination of real stillness and lively motion that he found there, he was particularly drawn to the beauty of architectural elements such as walls, which reminded him of the work of Antoni Tąpies.

He was also fascinated by the ordinary materials (such as flattened tin cans or duct tape) reused there to patch or supply missing elements for utilitarian objects. The result was almost always unusual and quite often beautiful as well. "A lot of the world is like that," he notes, "especially in developing countries; but even in New York, the archetypal city of the 20th Century, it's amazing how makeshift things are." Such solutions may sometimes not look right and often won't work for long, but, as Beech sees it, there's "a lot of humanity in that." This humanity of rough edges and "making do" interested him more than the polished, relatively detached look of the work of many reductive artists. For him it was more important that his own work be accessible and be "imbedded in the world rather than separate."

Returning from Morocco for his final year at the University of California at Berkeley, Beech abandoned his earlier interest in architecture in favor of complete concentration on art courses. By then he had decided on a career as an artist, which he pursued first in San Francisco and then, after participating in the 1996 biennial at the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, DC, in New York.

Beech grew up in England; his family moved to the U.S. in 1981, when his father took a position in the computer industry in the Silicon Valley. Besides travel, his interests include tennis (he considers himself a serious player) and reggae music (he considers himself a serious collector). One can imagine that both these interests have encouraged his innate preference for spontaneity, which is an important element in Beech's process. He enjoys the challenge of things that don't quite work as expected, regarding them as chances for finding a new way of seeing the world and of making art.

Born Winchester, England, 1964

University of California, Berkeley, California, B.A., 1986

2001 Rotating Paintings, Gallery Paule Anglim, San Francisco, California
Stark Gallery, New York , New York
Alexander Nagel, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Built on Site, TD156, San Francisco, California
1999 Petra Bungert Projects / CCNOA, Brussels, Belgium
Gallery Paule Anglim, San Francisco, California
1998 The Locker Plant, The Chinati Foundation, Marfa, Texas
1997 Gallery Paule Anglim, San Francisco, California
Smith Andersen Editions, Palo Alto, California
1996 Angles Gallery, Santa Monica, California
1995 Gallery Paule Anglim, San Francisco, California
1994 Miles Bellamy-113 Crosby Street, New York, New York
1993 Gallery Paule Anglim, San Francisco, California
1992 Sculpture Built On The Premises, Upaya Gallery, San Francisco, California
1991 Gallery Paule Anglim, San Francisco, California
1990 Gallery Paule Anglim, San Francisco, California
1989 Southern Exposure Gallery, San Francisco, California

2002 In a Silent Way, Galerie Gisele Linder, Basel, Switzerland
Two Step, CCNOA, Brussels, Belgium
2001 Fifteen Years of Painting, Stark Gallery, New York, New York
Surfaces & Support Systems, 123 Watts, New York, New York
El Paisano Hotel, Rudolph Projects, Marfa, Texas
Anymore, Real Art Ways, Hartford, Connecticut
Art Brussels, CCNOA, Brussels, Belgium
2000 From Idea to Matter. Nine Sculptors, Anderson Gallery, VA Commonwealth U., Richmond
Minimalism, Then and Now, University Art Museum, Berkeley, California
Trajectories, Smack Mellon Studios, Brooklyn, New York
2000 The Art of Collaborative Printmaking: Smith Andersen Editions,
Michael Martin Gallery, San Francisco, California (traveled to Flanders Graphics,
Minneapolis, Minnesota, and Haggerty Museum of Art, Marquette University, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Industry, (three person show) Thatcher Projects, New York, New York
From Rags To Riches, Foundation de la Tapisserie des Arts, Tournai, Belgium
1999 Of Ten, Thatcher Projects, New York, New York
Meaning and Message: Contemporary Art from the Museum Collection, The
Oakland Museum of California, Oakland, California
Fetes de Saint Martin. Tourinnes-La-Grosse, near Brussels, Belgium.
Into the 21st Century. Selections from the Permanent Collection, San Jose Museum of Art, San Jose, CA
John Beech & Christopher Lesnewski: Sculpture and Collaborative Drawings,
The Sculpture Center, New York, New York
Do Paintings Dream of Veronese Green? Elga Wimmer Gallery, New York
Horizontal Vertigo, Rudolph Poissant Gallery, Houston, Texas
Material Issues: Recent Gifts from the Katherine and James Gentry Collection, San Jose Museum of Art, CA
1998 The Art of Collaborative Printmaking, Smith Andersen Editions, The Nevada
Museum of Art, Reno, Nevada (traveled to de Saisset Museum, Santa Clara University, CA (1999)
Permanent Collection Contemporary Art, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, CA (1998-1999)
9+1, Petra Bungert Projects, Brussels, Belgium
All That is Solid, Socrates Sculpture Park, New York, New York
Blunt Object, The Smart Museum of Art, Chicago, Illinois
Seven Year Itch, Ambrosino Gallery, Miami, Florida
Here & Now, The Sculpture Center, New York, New York
Escape Velocity, Socrates Sculpture Park, New York, New York
The Flat Files: Drawings from Pierogi 2000, Vasser College, Poughkeepsie, NY (traveled to Bard College, Rheinbeck, NY,
and Kunstlerhaus, Vienna, Austria)
1997 Pierogi 2000: The Flat File Drawings, The Gasworks, London (traveled to Cornerhouse, Manchester, England)
Momenta Art, Brooklyn, New York
Aspects of Space, Trans Hudson Gallery, New York, New York
1996 John Beech & James Hyde, Charlotte Jackson Gallery, Santa Fe, New Mexico
1995 The Corcoran Biennial, Corcoran Museum of Art, Washington, D.C.
Gridluck, Marge Goldwater, Inc. New York, New York
Into a New Museum, Part II, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, California
Plastic, Bernard Toale Gallery, Boston, Massachusetts
1994 20th Anniversary Exhibition, Southern Exposure Gallery, San Francisco, California
1994 Traction, (three person show) Stark Gallery, New York, New York
The Gluers, Bedford Gallery, Walnut Creek, California
1993 Edward Albee's Other Eye, Sculptural Objects from the Edward Albee Collections,
Hillwood Art Museum, Long Island University, Brookville, New York
Objecthood, Mills College, Oakland, California
Still Lives, Zen Center Hospice Guest House, San Francisco, California
1992 SECA Award Exhibition, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA
Re*Generation, San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art, San Jose, California
1991 Towards a New Museum, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA
Gallery II, (three person show) Gallery Paule Anglim, San Francisco, California
Selections: San Francisco Bay Area, Curated by Larry Rinder,
The Drawing Center, New York, New York (traveled to Pro-Arts, Oakland, California)
The Store, Richard Bennett Gallery, Los Angeles, California
Summer '91, Richard Bennett Gallery, Los Angeles, California
(CON-TEXT), Richard Bennett Gallery, Los Angeles, California
1989 Re: Imperfect Affinities, (three person show) XS Gallery, Carson City, Nevada
Introductions '89, (three person show) Gallery Paule Anglim, San Francisco, California
1988 Chain Reaction IV, San Francisco Arts Commission Gallery, San Francisco, California
1986 Graduation Exhibition, The White Room, University of California, Berkeley, California

1999 The Pollock-Krasner Foundation Award
1998 The Chinati Foundation, Residency, Marfa, Texas
1992 SECA Award, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, California
1985 Maybelle Toombs Award for Practice of Art, University of California, Berkeley

Baker, Kenneth, "John Beech at Paule Anglim," ARTnews, 6.1999
Baker, Kenneth, "Sculptures With Delayed Punch Lines," San Francisco Chronicle, 2.5.1999
Baker, Kenneth, "Details Know Their Importance," San Francisco Chronicle, 12.5.1995
Baker, Kenneth, "Sculpture With Poise and Humor," San Francisco Chronicle, 11.10.1993
Baker, Kenneth, "Things Good From Spectator's View," San Francisco Chronicle, 3.14.1993
Baker, Kenneth, "John Beech at Upaya," ARTnews, 9.1992
Baker, Kenneth, "SECA Award Show," San Francisco Chronicle, 9.27.1992
Baker, Kenneth, "John Beech Builds a Show at Upaya," San Francisco Chronicle, 4.27.1992
Baker, Kenneth, "Promising Debut of John Beech," San Francisco Chronicle, 7.29.1989
Bakke, Erik, "Studio Visit: John Beech," New York Arts Magazine, 4.1999
Bensley, Lis, "John Beech & James Hyde," Santa Fe New Mexican/Pasatiempo, 6.7.1996
Bollen, Christopher, "Surfaces and Support Systems," Time Out New York, 1.3.2002
Bonetti, David, "Charting 35 years of California Art," San Francisco Examiner, 1.6.2000
Bonetti, David, "Bay City Best," San Francisco Examiner Magazine, 3.14.1999
Bonetti, David, "John Beech at Paule Anglim," San Francisco Examiner, 12.1.1995
Bonetti, David, "Door-Opening Readymade," San Francisco Examiner, 9.17.1991
Caldwell, John and Bishop, Janet, essay and interview, SECA Art Award Catalogue,
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 9.1992
Carel, Sari, "John Beech at Stark Gallery," Zingmagazine Issue 15, 6.2001
Chinati Foundation newsletter Volume 6, image reproduced, 2001
Chinati Foundation newsletter Volume 4, image reproduced, 1999
Damianovic, Maia, "Painting Beyond Limits," Tema Celeste, 4.1997
Estep, Jan, "Blunt Object", New Art Examiner, 12.1998
Everett, Deborah, "Trajectories, Brooklyn," New York Arts Magazine, 11.2000
Everett, Deborah, "Beech & Lesnewski," New York Arts Magazine, 4.1999
Fazzolari, Bruno, "Auto Conceptual," Artweek, 5.21.1992
Freedman, Matt, "Here & Now," Exhibition Catalogue essay, 4.1998
Hickson, Patricia, "Into the 21st Century: San Jose Museum of Art," Catalogue essay, 5.1999
Johnson, Ken, "John Beech & Christopher Lesnewski," New York Times, 4.30.1999
Kelley, Jeff, text for Corcoran Biennial Catalogue, 12.1995
Knepp, Gregorio, "From Idea to Matter," Sculpture Magazine, 5.2001
Levi-Strauss, David, "John Beech," California Magazine, 9.1991
Levin, Kim, "John Beech at Stark Gallery," The Village Voice, 12.26.2000
Maclay, Catherine, "Material Issues," San Jose Mercury News, 4.11.1999
McFadden, Sarah, Text, "Tourinnes-La-Grosse" exhibition catalogue, 11.1999
McLeod, Deborah, "Running on Empty," Richmond Virginia Style Weekly, 10.31.2000
Newhall, Edith, "Texas Two-Step," New York Magazine, 4.19.1999
Porges, Maria, "San Francisco Fax," Artissues, 11.1991
Rand, Harry, Catalogue essay "From Idea to Matter," 10.2000
Roby, Dianne, "Beech at Anglim," Artweek, 11.4.1993
Scherr, Apollinaire, "Stranded in Marfa," Oakland East Bay Express, 2.19.1999
Sillen, Kim, "Here & Now," New York Arts Magazine, 6.1998
Smith, Courtenay, Blunt Object Exhibition Catalogue essay, 9.1998
Smith, Roberta, "Upper East Side," New York Times, 4.30.1999
Smith, Roberta, "Corcoran Biennial," New York Times, 12.1995
Sultan, Terrie, "Off the Wall and Beyond the Frame," Catalogue essay, 44th Biennial Exhibition of Contemporary American Painting, The Corcoran Gallery." 11.1995
Taplin, Robert, "John Beech at Miles Bellamy," Art in America, 2.1995
Vandendries, Jean, "L'art et les matieres de Fernandez," Le Soir (Belgium), 4.11.1999
Watten, Barrett, "Cultural Strategists: 1992 SECA Art Award at SFMOMA," Artweek, 11.5.1992
Zyzzyva Literary Journal, cover + 27 pages of drawings reproduced, Summer 1992

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, California
Oakland Museum, Oakland, California
San Jose Museum of Art, San Jose, California
University Art Museum, Berkeley, California
Laguna Art Museum, Laguna Beach, California
Museum of Art, Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Sidley and Austin, New York, New York
Pfizer Corporation, New York, New York
Bank of America, Los Angeles, California
Robertson Stevens & Co., San Francisco
Swiss Re, New York, New York

Edward Albee, New York, New York
Charles Boone, San Francisco, California
Agnes Bourne, San Francisco, California
Matthew & Nancy Browar, La Jolla, California
Alan Dinsfriend, Boston, Massachusetts
Robert Dunn, San Francisco, California
Natalie and Irving Forman, Santa Fe, New Mexico
Deven Golden, New York, New York
Gardiner Hempel, San Francisco, California
Paula Kirkeby, Palo Alto, California
Martin Margulies, Coconut Grove, Florida
Steven Oliver, San Francisco, California
Ms. Panza, Switzerland
Rosalynn Swig, San Francisco, California
David White, New York, New York


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