David Richard Gallery is pleased to present, Surly Puppet, an exhibition of new collaborative paintings by Todd Arsenault and Kristopher Benedict. Their process of collaboration is similar in spirit to how improvisational musicians take cues from each other, melding creative impulses that may lead to divergent combinations of familiar rhythms and chords and resulting in a new melody. Extending that same logic to painting, the two artists have created over 50 collaborative works that go beyond a mere hybridization of their respective painting styles to create aesthetically distinct imagery with a unique evolutionary development. The resulting body of work encompasses a range of styles, attitudes, and approaches, as the two artists create in dialogue toward the development of a singular new image.

The artist reception will be Wednesday, July 17 from 5 to 8 pm on the Ground Floor exhibition space at 211 East 121 ST, New York, NY 10035. The exhibition will be on view Tuesday, July 16 through Friday, August 9, 2019. Please contact the gallery at info@DavidRichardGallery.com or call 212-882-1705 for additional information.

For the past three years, Todd Arsenault and Kristopher Benedict have been collaborating on a group of paintings in their shared Philadelphia studio space. The two artists are rarely in the studio at the same time and seldom discuss the work in progress other than intermittently leaving Post-It® notes for each other relaying terse messages such as: “might be finished” or “your turn.” Familiarity with non-verbal communication, and the intuitive awareness to leave space in the emerging image for the other painter to operate, comes from their decade long history of musical collaboration.

Since 2008, Arsenault and Benedict, along with visual artist Ward Davenny, have been involved in Fake Your Death, a music project based around the idea of long form improvisation with both traditional rock instrumentation and digital sound. In both the collaborative paintings and the music, there is a desire to cultivate work that adopts a roughness and occasional sense of amateurism as a “de-skilling” strategy to avoid creative tendencies that have grown too comfortable over time. The paintings and music also share a sense of spontaneity, a play between humor and tension, and an interest in abrupt contextual changes and competing foci.

Todd Arsenault and Kristopher Benedict’s collaborative efforts in painting can be seen as a practice that questions the concept and definition of the “artist’s voice”. If a certain understanding of painting tells us that a work of art’s content, or the artist’s “vision”, is distilled through style, what results from two distinct approaches operating in the same image? What is the result when these distinct voices become united to the point of being indistinguishable, or fracture into something visually multifarious? More than the idea of challenging conventional ideas of style and originality, Arsenault and Benedict are engaged in finding out how these experiments with voice and image-making allow for the development of new patterns of looking, and challenge visual perception through unexpected juxtapositions of aesthetic and visual language.

Todd Arsenault (b. 1977 Milford, Connecticut) is a painter and musician who also uses digital media to bring together his creative endeavors into visual and audio experiences. His paintings are abstractions that combine figuration with non-objective episodes to create vignettes and situational statements, generally working with saturated hues and often incorporating text. Arsenault received an MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, Rhode Island, in 2003 and a BA from Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, in 1999. Selected exhibitions include Play it First at Site 57, New York, NY (2017); The Vortex is Obscene at Galería Fúcares in Madrid, Spain (2010); New York Style at Angell Gallery in Toronto (2006); and Todd Arsenault at Massimo Audiello Gallery in New York (2005). He lives in Pennsylvania where he is Associate Professor of Studio Art at Dickinson College.

Kristopher Benedict (b. 1978 Middletown, NY) has a unique approach to his painting practice. He begins with figurative elements, landscapes and a concept, then works the figure, palette and non-objective ground and adjacent passages in parallel—adding, covering and repeating the process to realize the final abstract compositions. While distinct representational elements often remain from his process, many become obfuscated or incorporated into the abstract milieu. Benedict has exhibited his work in solo shows at David Richard Gallery, Sue Scott Gallery, and Tibor de Nagy in New York, Gallery Diet (now Nina Johnson) in Miami, Paris London Hong Kong in Chicago, Volta NY, and the Goodyear Gallery at Dickinson College among other venues. Group exhibitions include those at the David Petersen Gallery in Minneapolis, CTRL gallery in Houston, the University of Florida, P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, and the Orlando Museum of Art. His work is in the public collections of the RISD Museum, Flint Institute of Arts, and The Orlando Museum of Art. He holds a BFA from The Cooper Union, and an MFA from Columbia University. His studio is in Philadelphia, he lives in the suburbs, and teaches painting at West Chester University in West Chester, Pennsylvania.