“Manfredi Beninati”, Tema Celeste, July/August 2007
By Julie Cirelli
Prior to the opening of this exhibition, Manfredi Beninati locked himself in the gallery’s anteroom for days with a self-proclaimed “sand castle expert” from Long Island, hired after a google search. The two of them created a massive castle complete with towers and spiraling staircases, on the site of an otherwise ordinary home-office scene. the collision of two usually dichotomous landscapes - we are in a location wherein the parallel workplaces of the child and the adult for once intersect - lays the framework for Beninati’s favored motif: the gross, banal, adult terrain eclipsed by nostalgia for the bright and mystical imaginary world of childhood. Rather singularly, this nostalgia is communicated by beninati by means of the “psychedelic” palette so in vogue these days: watery fuchsia, electric heliotrope and coral, aquamarine, that call to mind the back-lit backdrop of a fish tank, saturate the large paintings populating the exhibition as well as the smaller dioramas and installations. Formally, both the paintings and the dioramas blur or fog their sometimes common, sometimes fancyful scenes with dripping streaks of color or gauzy grass and branch-like layers. A child sits at a table while behind her the room bleeds into a candy-colored, mystical garden; faint figures of women picnic in an underwater dreamscape, awash with palm trees, swirling feasts of flowers, streamers and bouquets; a cowboy and his steed gaze towards a lime-green horizon as it explodes into tie-dye; a listless woman reclines near an even more sedately seated monkey. Other sculpural works, though less visceral than either his paintings or installations, cohere fluidly with Beninati’s body of work: they are toys -resin dolls, dogs, and sundry plant life- seamingly coated in melted candy. The result is enchanting, if vaguely morbid. Beninati’s visual vocabulary seams based on his background in film. In the past he studied at the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia in Rome. His sculptural installations retain that set-like quality of static, atmospheric backdrop, and even his paintings, though complete in their own right, are like a scenography, as though the artist meant to perform an activity before them.