Set is a testament to Degen's love of paint and its possibility. Two men simultaneously look out to sea, lifting their arms in symmetry to shield their eyes from the bright light of the setting sun. Both are highly stylized— Degen's figures are never portraits but caricatures, Everyman. Here, the skin is rendered in a welter of mark-making and patterns. The figure on the left is covered in small yellow swirls, mimicking light as reflected off the waves. This pattern is extended at right, where delicate wisps of blue over a pink ground cast the figure in a purple haze, adding dimension to the existing palette. The bright gridded underpainting provides further clues to the painting's underpinning, suggesting the grid used to transfer sketch to canvas.
Palette, texture, and content all converge to create a unique dynamism in Degen's work— whereas the subject of movement plays an important role throughout the paintings in this exhibition, movement also comes alive in the artist's innovative approach to material and technique.
"Benjamin Degen: In Waves," Susan Inglett Gallery, NYC, 12 March 2020 - 24 July 2020.