1969-1979

Opens

The Opens are deceptively sparse, almost to the point of being minimal. Heavy channel iron, looking very much like a frame, defines a specific section of space. Through this basic easel-like construction, a triangle base is inferred, automatically establishing a traditional three-dimensions. The framework and its attached elements sets up a surface and at the same time directs us back into the enclosed space. Whereas, traditionally, not being able to look at a freestanding work from all sides was a problem, these sculptures seem to require that problematical factor for their success. The knowledge that we could walk around them if we wanted to seems to be sufficient.

Robert Christie
From catalogue essay, York University Art Gallery, 1976

1969

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

 

Rhythms

Bentham thinks of his working method as drawing with metal; edges and their relationships make tense linear rhythms in his work.
Karen Wilkin
From catalogue essay, Edmonton Art Gallery, l973

1970–1979