Artinfo.com

Daily Pic: Painting Degree Zero

By Blake Gopnik

April 29, 2014

This is a view into Benjamin Butler’s show called “Green Forest,” at Klaus von Nichtssagend Gallery on the Lower East Side in New York. There’s an approach to picture-making that I like to call “painting degree zero,” whereby an artist uses an absolute minimum of moves and techniques to portray the subject at hand. (A favorite example of mine is a very early landscape by Alexi Worth that is barely more than a stick figure, a horizon and the hint of a lake.) P.D.Z. lets a painter pull out from under the discourse of fancy brushwork and connoisseurship, without (hopefully) falling over into the tired ol’ antiesthetic camp, either.
 
Butler’s paintings are about trees. Trees are green. They are often vertical. Tree branches tend toward the diagonal. Trees matter. Done.