Movies, comic books and science fiction, religion and mysticism all co-mingle with a formal romantic modernism, in a very literal sense. My new work contains many figurative elements that relate to the intersection of pop culture and spirituality with a special emphasis on the Mystic (used in the colloquial sense) and how it is co-opted by pop culture.
I’m particularly interested in the indoctrination of quasi-spiritual concepts into our personal morality and how we use that to cope with current political challenges. I was raised as a fundamentalist Christian and I spent much of my childhood in Memphis, TN watching classic staples like the Andy Griffith Show and the Big Valley. I’ve always been fascinated with the idea that our moral codes are crafted from these early experiences. We develop our ideas of heroes and villains, right and wrong, from this strange mix of traditional myths and popular stories.
I’ve been working through this more additive process through drawings on paper and small paintings, as well as large acrylic works. These new paintings feel more personal and authentic than the more formal, non-objective abstractions I’ve done in the past, as well as more socially relevant as we as a society (and world) grapple with complex issues and our own need for some kind of spiritual or communal grounding.
Paul Behnke was born in Memphis, TN and received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in painting from the Memphis College of Art.
Behnke’s work has been exhibited widely in the United States and internationally. He has had solo exhibitions in New York, Heidelberg, Philadelphia, Saint Augustine, and Memphis, as well as group shows in San Francisco, Honolulu, London, Dublin, Paphos, Glasgow, The Netherlands and New York.
Behnke’s work has been reviewed in Hyperallergic Weekend, The New Criterion and The New Republic.He has edited Structure and Imagery: A Contemporary Art Blog since 2011 and was the co-director of Stout Projects an exhibition space in Bushwick, Brooklyn from 2015 – 2017.Behnke is currently based in Lambertville, NJ and Brooklyn, NY.