C O D A GALLERY PRESENTS
BEN STEELE • NEW WORK
NOV 25 - DEC 22, 2017
PALM DESERT, CA — CODA Gallery honors one of its best-selling painters with a solo exhibition and artist reception at the gallery’s 31st season opening celebration on Nov. 25. An art history buff, Ben Steele imbues in his paintings tongue-in-cheek references to predecessors such as Leonardo da Vinci, Edgar Degas, Marc Chagall, and Jeff Koons. On many occasions, he has melded famed artists — Georges Seurat, Georgia O’Keefe, Henri Matisse, Jackson Pollock, et al. — with crayons.
He describes his work as “kind of realist or representational oil paintings, usually with a theme [in addition to crayons, he favors the Etch-a-Sketch and gumball machine]. The subject matter may vary greatly, but it weaves in history and pop culture. "I love sampling through the past and combining things.” When he is asked to name his favorite artist, Ben usually says Johannes Vermeer. But (and undoubtedly more consistent with his own artistic ethos), he notes, “It’s somewhere between Vermeer and [Andy] Warhol.”
The juxtaposition of the studious Dutch painter of intimate moments in middle-class society and the irreverent American artist exploiting commercialism and celebrity status speaks to Ben’s beguiling marriage of style and subject. For example, one of his odes to Vermeer shows the iconic milkmaid in the midst of the sitcom Cheers bar. He employs that approach for this month’s exhibition at CODA Gallery: Nov. 25-Dec. 22, with a reception for the artist from 5 to 8 p.m. on Nov. 25.
For this show, he is bringing paintings highlighting desert landscapes. One work serves as a riff on MGM’s Gone with the Wind poster in a mashup of sorts, with a motel sign like the Route 66 landmark of Roy’s in Amboy and windmills on the fiery night horizon. Another work offers a parody on David Hockney’s swimming pool theme with a Palm Springs-labeled water bottle on a diving board. “Most of the time, I feel like I honor my subjects, but I absolutely am not above making fun of them,” Ben says.
Ben’s greatest fear is being insignificant. “I do art for some sense of permanence in an impermanent world,” he says. “The best compliment I could receive from others is that my work enriches their life in some way.”