By: Douglas Bentham  09-12-2011
Keywords: Art, Sculpture, drawing

The idea of sculpture as drawing in space has been central to the development of modernist sculpture from the first decades of the twenty-first century. Julio Gonzalez first articulated it in 1932, describing the “new art: to draw in space”. Gonzalez was referring retrospectively to Picasso’s early sculpture and, by implication, to the welded metal sculpture on which he and Picasso had recently collaborated. The phrase makes reference to the pictorial origins of the new sculpture in cubism, and vividly conveys the character of the open, linear constructions originated by the two artists in 1928. Building on the work of Gonzalez, [David] Smith accomplished his own radical and distinctive formulation of the idea.

At the outset of his career as a sculptor, Bentham too was occupied with drawing in space. He was aware of Smith’s insistence on the primacy of a picture plane as the basis for sculpture. The two-dimensionality and dependence on line for the spatial image, which characterize Bentham’s earliest independent works explore Smith’s idiom.

Victoria Baster
From catalogue essay, Dunlop Art Gallery, Regina, 1985

Keywords: Art, drawing, Sculpture

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According to Bentham, the translation of scale and material forces the viewer to deal with the language of abstraction.1 In looking from one piece to the other, the viewer is compelled to mentally reconstruct the work, to verify that, for instance, those two flanges join at just the same angle in both pieces.


Recent Work (2000-2009) | DOUGLAS BENTHAM

My desire here is to create objects with the concentrated energy that allows them to be viewed from a distance yet also demands your close-up attention. These tiny objects of wood, paper, tin and string, so vital to the birth of constructivist sculpture, trick you by their size. It takes a very different pacing, combined with a trance-like attention, to feel one’s way into small-scale work.



The curved “drawing” which composes them has two aspects: it draws sinuous “dancing” arabesques in the air and it draws around and contains space. The pieces rise off the ground in a variety of ways, sometimes upon platforms that become surrogates for the floor rather than bases or plinths. This architecture inclines to cage-like configurations characterized by curved rods and tubes containing curved plates and volumes.


New Work (2010-2011) | DOUGLAS BENTHAM

These tablet-scaled works hark back to the Doors, where each work’s own materiality, its scale and flux of front/back, back/front offers a kind of psychological interior in the viewer’s imagination. Although the artist plans to show the Centurions as a group eventually, the Tablets represents Bentham’s first full-fledged museum installation.