TORONTO, October 28, 2019 – Atomic Design presents a curated exhibition entitled Universal Forms, featuring the work by late Canadian artist Benson Zonena on Friday, November 15 at Atomic Gallery. Organized by Lawrence Blairs, owner & curator, Atomic Design, the exhibit explores unseen sculptural work recently rediscovered after over 40 years. Universal Forms will display select works from two collections: POS/NEGand Interdependence. Blair’s finding marks the reintroduction of Benson Zonena and his collections of abstract sculptures and monochromatic wall reliefs to a public audience for the first time since the 1970s.
“Upon arrival for a routine house-call, I was totally unprepared for the magic I was about to discover. What I saw before my eyes was immediately comparable to the great works of Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth and Maryon Kantaroff, who Zonena exhibited with at Yaneff Gallery in 1979,” says Lawrence Blairs, owner & curator, Atomic Design. “I was instantly moved by the way the sculpted forms mimic interdependent human existence, a comment on how humans need one another to survive. We are interdependent. Universal Forms will celebrate Zonena’s fascination with the complexity of nature, geometric forms and mathematical order.”
Zonena’s body of work focuses on form, architecture and human condition. He was a highly political individual, and his point of view is woven into the DNA of his works, though it may not immediately be obvious. POS/NEG is a collection of monochromatic fiberglass wall reliefs encapsulating unity of opposites with each positive form identical to its negative mate. Interdependence is a series of sculptural work made from marble, Vermont sandstone and wood, fabricating the symbiosis of human existence with each just-touching form relying on the stability and groundedness of the other. The result is a comment on the concept of interdependence as a paradigm. In his own words, Zonena likens this paradigm to the pertinent connectedness of our Canadian provinces and cities. The work is exemplar, according to Zonena of the diverse ethnic and cultural identities that are separate but co-existing beneath the umbrella of Ontario and Toronto. In today’s political climate, this message is more relevant than ever.
With a scholarship to Central Saint Martins, the London-born artist began an advertising career for notable art publications like Studio Internationaland Art International in the 1950s and 60s, eventually sent to work in Toronto with Arts Canada. The move overseas led to his association with Canadian artists such as sculptors Al Green and Sorel Etrog. In 1972, Zonena decided to devote his time to sculpting instead, five years in advance of being elected to membership at Sculptors Society of Canada. The next decade would see unrepresented solo and group shows at the Offices of Sheldon Rosen (1975), First Canadian Place (1977), Macdonald Gallery (1978), Hamilton Art Gallery (1978), Yaneff Gallery (1979) and a commission for Temple Sinai entitled Eternal Light.