April 4, 2008

Gretchen Bennett's love letters to Kurt Cobain in Seattle

Gretchen Bennett explores the pop-culture iconography of the Seattle area through drawings of the band Nirvana and its lead singer Kurt Cobain. Bennett's source materials include YouTube video footage and Gus Van Sant's film, "Last Days." In The Stranger, Jen Graves writes that everything Bennett makes is a sort of humbled afterlife of something else. 'Usually something geographic: cut street stickers arranged to represent images of her old neighborhood in Brooklyn; labels from used-up water bottles reassembled and mounted pristinely on paper in the shape of Mount Rainier; and now, colored-pencil portraits of YouTube videos that revolve around a dead man, Kurt Cobain. It isn't that Bennett is stuck in the past; it's as if, like a musician covering a song, she waits for just the right time to pull certain pasts through to now. Drawing may be old-fashioned, but drawing that looks like a cross between Dürer etchings, luminist landscapes, and degraded photographs and that's made from lowly colored pencils is not. Also, this is an official announcement: Unlike, say, five years ago, it is now possible to make art about Kurt Cobain without it being wrong. This moment may soon pass, and he may take on newly unpleasant glosses, but for now, he is the perfect balance of lost and found." Read more.

"I didn't want to say celebrity worship or obsession — but I thought about that because they surround this subject matter." Gretchen Bennett told The Seattle Times' Marian Liu. "I think of these pieces as alternative views, personal views, my personal framing. For me, it's almost self-portraiture or landscape. It's a way of contextualizing myself in this landscape."

In the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Regina Hackett declares that Bennett is about materials, "especially those that have kicked around the edges of urban cultures, such as fake wood grain and skateboard decals; black tape drawings of tree trunks, oil tanks and dead animals; and grainy photos of the street. She's an artist of rumors, bumper stickers and bum steers. From these she derives a haunting version of the truth. Like the humor in Kafka, her affirmatives can be hard to discern but once seen they become indelible." Read more.

"Gretchen Bennett: Hello," Howard House, Seattle, WA. Through April 12.

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