A lifelong career in the arts as a painter began in Italy where Benini was born in 1941 in Imola, in the Emilia Romagna region. After leaving home in 1956, he earned a living as an itinerant artist, then at 17, he embarked on an Italian cruise ship that for two years took him to European ports and the Caribbean Islands. Then he returned to Italy for three years in the Italian army.
After his discharge, he resumed painting in Europe and again went to sea. A year later, he flew to Freeport, Grand Bahama Island, where his production and exhibition schedule accelerated. Now, 163 one-man shows later, Benini lives and paints in the Texas Hill Country.
His current work consists of abstract paintings of intense color.
Earlier series include the Geometric paintings of the 90’s, the paintings of roses of the 70’s and 80’s and even earlier landscapes from his early years in Italy. Throughout his career, he created three-dimensional pieces - large-scale sculptures and his Divertimenti series.
Benini's exhibition career started with a one-man show in Milan, Italy in 1962. During his late teens and early 20's, he had painted landscapes and still lifes in a traditional style. By the early 70's, his painting evolved into large-scale monochromatic renderings of the human figure.
And he started painting the symbol of the rose, first with large monochromatic roses in the hard edge technique where he was separating the hues of the color. His "Of Woman and Roses" exhibition at New York State University in Buffalo in 1973 featured Superroses in hansa yellow, a color he painted exclusively for two years.
The large Superroses were exhibited extensively in Europe. At one exhibition in the 70's in Torino, 20 huge Superroses were cut out of their frames in the gallery and stolen. Here are two paintings from that time in the MUSEOBENINI collection today.
Benini began alternating large-scale representations of the rose with dream-like paintings that had strong symbolic content, as in his 1982 painting, Pursuit of Silence.
By the mid-1980's, instead of painting on traditional square-corned canvases, he contoured the painting to the outside edges of the rose, and mounted it slightly from the wall to further enhance the sense of dimensionality as they floated high above on museum walls. Reds, yellows, greens, blues and whites were the most frequent colors this work.
During the late 1980's, Benini's work underwent a dramatic change. Leaving the symbol of the rose forever after "l'Ultima Rosa" (the painting that eventually hung in the White House during the Clinton presidency), he turned instead to creating paintings with a focus on geometry and the mathematical sciences - interesting given that he claimed to hate geometry in school. The technique he had been perfecting required up to 20 layers of acrylic paint blended by brush. Starting with simple forms - cubes, triangles and spheres, he then brought in organic and lyrical shapes and he stretched them over flat aluminum, again hanging the paintings inches from the wall, enhancing the feeling of dimension. (See image: On Giving)
About this work, arts writer Joe Bravo noted in his catalog for the 2017 exhibition featuring this series from the 1990's, at The Museum of Geometric and MADI Art in Dallas, "In Benini's Geometric artworks, one cannot help but be struck by their quality as paintings. The blending technique that the artist mastered in his Rose series was once again deployed to create subtle traditions of color and shading to accentuate the overt dimensionality of the works. At every point, in every vertex, in every curve or undulating shadow, the artist ostentatiously reminded the viewers that this work is not flat, even though it is. The shaped canvases and the interior vacuities all accentuate the dimensional experience."
(See image: The Juggler)
The Courting Kaos series emerged in 2003, with a new process in which Benini his blended the backgrounds and then selectively dropped acrylics in highly controlled patterns that evolved into large-scale pieces. These paintings can cast a wide reference - to Italian Baroque and Rococo art, to the simple elegance of Islamic pattern art, and even more perhaps - to space age imagery. (See image CK: Angelico).
This attention continued with the Face of God series. "The God I am portraying has nothing to do with religious icons or established beliefs whose identities man has create from the beginning of man time," Benini said about this series of 17 paintings. "It was more a quest for an abstract essence: universal in spirit." (See images: Face of God: Quattoridici 2012 and Face of God: Diciassette 2012.)
After the Face of God series (2005 - 2012), the canvas opened...and the Meditation series emerged. (See images: Meditation on One's Way and Meditation: The Path.)
In the fall of 2014, Benini and Lorraine sold their ranch near Johnson City and bought a ranch 28 miles away, just south of Marble Falls in the Texas Hill Country. At this compound containing the office, the fine arts library, Benini's studio and their home, they built two galleries, 6500 square feet. In 2018, the galleries of MUSEOBENINI will offer tours to the art world - educational classes and groups of ten or more people by appointment.
Contemplation Series, born in 2017, exemplified by Faith, Hope, and Charity.
To date, Benini has had 163 one-man exhibitions, primarily in universities, public institutions and museums. His most recent exhibition in Texas was at the Nave Museum in May, 2018.
Through the years, Benini has produced assemblages, or divertimenti. Varying in size from a few inches to 15 feet, these divertimenti are built with different materials: wood, steel, and granite.