4. Fletcher Benton

Fletcher Benton (American, 1931-2019), Steel Watercolor with Balls, 2000, enamel on steel, 282 x 60 x 65 inches, Gift of Edith and George Nadler, 3-2003


Audio Transcript

Fletcher Benton trained as a painter before becoming a sculptor. 


Benton’s interest in the illusory qualities of abstract shapes began with his explorations in kinetic sculpture. The static steel works of later years, such as this sculpture, retain this energy of movement and hint at the influence of early modern Constructivist abstraction on the artist.


This work is a part of the Steel Watercolor series. In this piece, he is combining ideas about painting and sculpture by creating brushstrokes, lines, and geometric shapes in a three-dimensional form. The thin metal frame rises up to support smaller sculptural elements and is delicately balanced on a flat base.

Composed of relatively thin bars of welded steel, the towering sculpture maintains a tenuous balance between scale and volume. The curved and bulbous forms at top offset the sculpture’s vertical rigidity.

Its monumental size is striking in its delicacy and precariously graceful in its construction, and seems to mark a three-dimensional crimson brushstroke in the sky.