The “Green God” in the title of Sadie Benning’s two-pronged exhibition of new works at Callicoon Fine Arts and Mary Boone Gallery appears, at Callicoon, as a gap-toothed, tongue wagging caricature in the painting of the same name. The works in the show take inspiration from the famous—and ambiguous—biblical phrase, “God created man in His own image,” to upend inherited systems of identity and belief. At Mary Boone, Benning is showing a fantastic pantheon of alternative gods: the purple-hat god, grey god, worm god, and others.
Benning creates hybrid painting-sculptures made of cut pieces of wood that are painted and covered in resin. The pieces neatly fit together like a jigsaw, unlike the complex contradictions suggested by their theme. In The Crucifixion (2015) the generic woman found on bathroom signs twists upon the cross. It brings to mind North Carolina’s controversial “bathroom law.” As simple as a devotional object, the work is a potent reminder of the scrutiny and humiliation exacted upon transgender people in the name of the lord. —Julia Wolkoff
Pictured: Sadie Benning: Sunset, 2015, aqua resin, wood, casein and acrylic gouache, 38 by 54 inches. Courtesy Callicoon Fine Arts, New York.