Sadie Benning became well-known in the early 1990s for making brilliant low-tech videos—urgent and moving confessionals documenting their own teenaged sensibility. For most of the current decade, they’ve concentrated on gallery-based projects, often using found photographic imagery as the base material for works that ultimately combine elements of sculpture and painting into a unique hybrid. For 2020, Benning returns to the Wex with a new work of striking scale and ambition.
Pain Thing is a single installation consisting of 63 small wood panels grouped into 19 discrete and separately titled sequences that extend through three adjacent spaces. Acrylic paint and photo transparencies are layered on each panel, followed by coats of meticulously applied clear resin. The overall result complicates the relationship between flatness and dimensionality while raising questions of narrative and memory, specifically in relation to traumatic and collectively inherited events.
The Wexner Center is thrilled to premiere Pain Thing, which follows Benning’s 2017 installation at The University of Chicago’s Renaissance Society, Shared Eye, since acquired by The Museum of Modern Art. Benning’s work has been shown at the Wex since the early 1990s. The recipient of a 2003 Wexner Center Artist Residency Award, they presented Suspended Animation, their first-ever solo gallery exhibition, here in 2007.