Off the grid: Paul Gillis and Maura Bendett display at Cabana Home

Paul Gillis - Night III
Paul Gillis – Night III

Two very different approaches to painting can be found at the current and very modest show at Cabana Home. Artists Maura Bendett and Paul Gillis approach canvas as a puzzle to be solved, but as these dozen or so pieces show, there’s more than one solution.

Mr. Gillis works in infinitesimally small grids, creating problems for himself, then working himself out. Although his online portfolio shows familiar objects and silhouettes in his work, the selections at Cabana Home tend toward the abstract and geometric. His method consists — it appears — of working on top of stretched hessian fabric adhered to a canvas. Hessian is the underlying coarsely woven material used in rugs and tapestry, but here it becomes a grid for a further grid placed on top, drawn with graphic, ruler, and, one would assume, steady nerves.

Maura Bendett - Sea Foam
Maura Bendett – Sea Foam

In his “Day” and “Night” series, Mr. Gillis creates a frame within a frame, a window perhaps, and uses the graphite grids to create the different shades of color. Very simple looking from afar, but on close inspection, they reveal the maker’s steady hand and belief in the finished result. “Day” is a filled-in rectangle, an inversion of the filled-in frame of “Nights,” another detail one might miss on first inspection, and the colors are dusky, subtle shades of blue, grey and off-white. The odd man out here is “Summon,” with its large circle taking center place, framed by hands, seance-style. Then there’s Maura Bendett’s works on watercolor paper and, by extension, her sculptures. Just like the Japanese art of kintsugi, which instead of hiding cracks in broken pottery accentuates them with gold, Ms. Bendett’s does the same thing with creases in paper. In “Blue Corners” and “Yellow Gradient” she takes very nice artist paper — usually bristol — and crumples it up, flattens it back out and works with the patterns created, with the result something like stained glass. The fault lines get an extra dose of white gouache, while the coloring of the masses in between often get several colors, or subtle patterning. And in her “Martian” series, she includes a cartoon of a little green man hiding out in the margins, just in case you think this art business is too deadly serious.

That crumpled-randomizing aesthetic translates to her sculpture in the sense that works like “Sea Foam,” “Blue Sculpture” and “Tall Sculpture” look like architectural frames that a frustrated designer attacked and threw away. Ms. Bendett keeps some of the solid foundations, but then works with the folded and twisted remnants, following every bend and crease with a solid outline. These are works where chance and intent meet and celebrate their ambiguity.

Cabana Home’s shows are always modest, and sometimes the art can get lost in the layout, but Ms. Bendett makes sure her works pop, while Mr. Gillis uses more stealth. Both are worth the visit.

Maura Bendett and Paul Gillis

When: through Sept. 30
Where: Cabana Home. 111 Santa Barbara St.
Gallery hours: 1-5 p.m.
Cost: Free
Information: 962-0200,

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