By Caniglia, Julie
Artforum International , Vol. 40, No. 3
Benjamin Edwards's first solo exhibition showcased his adventuresome approaches to portraying the architecture of suburbia, mapping physical and digital territories, and providing fresh views on concepts like "visual overload." The paintings on view comprise an almost overwhelmingly complex array of signs, symbols, logos, colors, textures, and shapes, all of which are digitally distilled from snapshots of suburban sprawlscapes (Edwards has gathered more than 1,000 images on various road trips). The compositions are also digitally worked out to an extent, but the artist creates the final rendition entirely by hand. Convergence, 2000-2001, includes bits and pieces from hundreds of strip malls, fast-food outlets, gas stations, and big-box retailers along the Washington Beltway, that cloud of consumerism girding the national capital. Condensed into an overbearing fantasy, the scene becomes a kind of nightmarish theme park where one might go mad from nonstop, never-ending enjoyment. Convergence can be seen, for Ed wards, as a kind of dark apotheosis of the '90s an era in which everything from consumer confidence to SUVs swelled and spiraled upward in a widening gyre. Huge as a Pollock, the painting hovers like a brash mirage, the artist's super-flat style countered by a perspectival, vortexlike effect. And yet it seems fragile, as if the whole thing were held together by a magnetic field.
But perhaps that's just hindsight. After September 11, the tension between Convergence and Decoherence, 2001, which faced each other from opposite ends of the gallery, seemed eerily premonitory. The latter is a maelstrom of faux-brick facade, windows, and building materials; smiley faces and logos (Target, Starbucks, Chevron, Citgo); even the American flag--a chaos painful to look at, given the disaster site a few miles from the gallery. The vortex effect here is viewed from on high--as if from an airplane--and washes of sheer white lend an air of flimsiness and weight-lessness, as if to indicate the shoddy construction of all that is exploding outward. …