Steve DiBenedetto forces a lot of perspectives into his pictures. As he puts it, “I like to put in too many skies.” There are patches of sky, and you can see panoramas, cross sections, core samples, micros and macros, but you can’t read it all at the same time. This is not the systematized simultaneity of Cubism; this is a tortuous mindscape. You get sucked in, tangled and confused; you withdraw to get your bearings and then reenter the quagmire and beat a different path through DiBenedetto’s shit. (He mixes his paints almost to that dead brown-gray point that painting instructors warn students against. And often, next to one of these near-fecal passages, he’ll smear some out-of-the-tube primaries.) These worlds are made of circles, spirals and ellipses; they’re held together by webs, tendrils, scratches and drips; and they’re packed uncomfortably into a rectangle.
The things—helicopters, octopuses, ferris wheels, merry-go-rounds—that churn these perspectives are also evocative as images. They summon from deep memory childhood’s fascinations and fears. They are like Apocalypse Now directed by Terence McKenna, or Something Wicked This Way Comes by Jacques Cousteau. Kind of. Even though DiBenedetto has used this same set of images in almost every recent work, they never coalesce into easy narratives. They function a little like Guston’s cigarettes and shoe soles: they’re important, but one is only sure why while viewing the picture.
DiBenedetto works on multiple paintings over a number of months, or sometimes years. They get built up and wiped out. Every inch of the canvas gets stroked, diddled and scraped. On a recent studio visit, I was surprised to see that the underpainting on some of these newer canvases was relatively serene and balanced. And in fact, along with turbulence, there is a lot of grace to be found within the finished paintings. His octopus’s tentacles, his arabesques and runes all share a sinuous, serpentine elegance. –BOMB Magazine, Dick Blair, 2003 (read more)