Austin American Statesman

Butler Blends Influences Deftly

By Jeanne Claire van Ryzin

November 7, 2006

Kansas-born, Brooklyn-based Benjamin Butler pulls on a bunch of seemingly disparate sources to create his latest suite of paintings now on view at Lora Reynolds Gallery.

The painter gives us colorful, easel-sized portraits of trees, distilling the natural forms into color-block lines of vibrant colors, inserting backgrounds of simplified blocks of color or neat grids of lines.

Yes, there’s really a distillation of many modernist traditions going here. There’s the bustle of color and pattern paintings, the simple forms found in minimalist, the striking swatches of color culled from the colorfield painters, the economic yet vigorous brushwork common to much modernism. There’s even a touch of kitsch and pop with lines that boogie or zigzag arrangements that border on psychedelic.

But really Butler’s just part of the continuing trajectory of American landscape painting. His precise, formal compositions have more to do with reverence and appreciation for nature than a cerebral objectification. Compelling and sweet, Butler’s “New Trees and Forests” are idiosyncratic homages to the beauty of nature.