About the projectReport a problem
Artlist — Center for Contemporary Arts Prague

Barbara Benish

First Name
Birth place
Newport Beach, California, USA
Place of work
South Bohemia
installation art
public art
ženské umění
CSU Library
↳ Find in the catalogue

About artist

An artist of Czech origin born in southern California. She lives with her family on a farm called Červený Mlýn (The Red Mill). She first visited Czechoslovakia the homeland of her father’s family in summer 1979. She fell in love with makovic along the Domažlice paths and the older men, standard guests in Czech pubs. She immediately felt at home here, despite the fact that she has hybrid origins: Indian, Spanish and Mediterranean. In 1993 she completed a year-long scholarship study visit with the Fulbright Programme and decided to remain in the Czech Republic. In her works, focused on installations combining paintings, drawings, photographs, videos and various objects, she elaborates topics addressing mainly relationships between nature and culture, the correlations between historical facts and mythological structures, as well as the mutual impact of memories and experiences. Her studies of ethnology and her review of the philosophy of deconstructions directed her, in her early works, to researching movements that symbolic structures go through in various cultures. Here works, partially inspired by the approach of post-modern athropology, creates a new poetic reality via confronting pluralist interpretations and thematisations of the history of local societies in the context of (their) cultural integration. In her studies she addressed Indian cultures in her native southern California, in Polynesia, and in Mexico. Through these studies she was able to return back to the folk traditions of both Bohemia and Moravia. From the beginning he work includes an inseparably present auto-reflex on her own position as female artist (for example, shape and symbolic motifs based on the female body) and later on her own cultural „differentness“ as an emigré in the land of her forefathers.


The repeat motif of parachutes-flowers, offering a rise to other realities, symbolically expresses a desire to understand differing cultures based on non-language, poetic communication. Already at her first exhibit at the University of Hawaii (1982) she confronted her own oil paintings against the patters of colourful designs printed on Hawaiian textiles (tapas) and thus explored relationships between domestic-made design and her own iconography. At an exhibit in Los Angeles (1989) she showed off her paintings contrasted against standard objects for everyday use brought from Czechoslovakia. References to hermetic and alchemistic motifs from the Courts of Rudolf II completed the exhibit. Recently she has focused primarily on thematising local histories: for example, the stories from an old resident of Červený mlýn. She believes in the necessity of identifying with a given environement and its atmosphere, its form and its memory. On this basis it is afterwards possible to „deconstruct“ how history is typically understood and its metamorphosis with the help of hidden images in the memory of the individual. He works come from a conceptual approach that is ruptured by concrete inspirations – environments, stories or inclinations of individual objects (she often uses materials with striking physical characteristics such as natural materials, plants, water, ice, feathers, resins, textiles, etc.). She thus understands cultural symbolism to be an open structure, a reservoir of themes and motifs for free manipulation. She also repeatedly re-contextualises her topics in various contexts. In her installations she researches the mutual and fluid relationship between diverse objects in space. This gives them the form of mobile hybrid structures, open to not-so-clear interpretations. One of her favourite themes includes the motif of the bride in the closed off garden, which she understands as a reference to the artist’s contemplative and lonely life. She draws inspiration both from folklore, folk art or the art of natural (tribal) nations as well as from the kitsch of contemporary pop culture and Western art history (mainly from the works of Albrecht Dürer and Franciso Goya. She also returns to studies of the apocalypse, while interpreting Christian iconography in its relations to gnostic teachings, alchemy, and anthropology. She also reads, for example, Faustian myths, in a similarly subversive way.

Author of the annotation
Lenka Dolanová



1988 Claremont Graduate School, Claremont, California, USA
(Master of Fine Arts)
1983-1984 Kunstakademien, Stockholm (Stipend)
1982 University of Hawaii, Honolulu, HI, USA
(Bachelor of Art, Art / Ethnology Major)
1979 Instituto de las Bellas Artes, San Miguel de Allene, Mexiko
1975-1976 Chouinard Institute of Art, Los Angeles, California, USA

Activities, employment, stipends:
2009 Visiting artist, University of California at Santa Cruz, California, USA
2006 founded Galerie Califia, Horaždovice, Czech Republic
2005-present Founding director of ArtMill, Center for Sustainable Creativity
1998-1999 Head of the studio of experimental graphics, Faculty of Fine Arts, Brno University of Technology, Brno
1996 Visiting artist at the Academy of Applied Arts, (UMPRUM), Studio of Kurt Gebauer
1993-1994 Fulbright's stipend for lecturers, Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague, Prague, Studio of Sculpture of Kurt Gebauer
1990 Visiting artist at the Claremont Graduate School, Claremont, CA, USA

Awards, grants:
2008 Fulbrighter of the Month, Czech Republic
2004 Exhibition Grant, U.S. Embassy, Prague
2003 Publication Grant, U.S. Embassy, Prague
2000 Artist Grant, Center for Contemporary Art, Prague
1995–1997 Research Support Grant, Central European University, Prague
1994 Travel Grant, Soros Center for Contemporary Art, Prague


Solo exhibitions
Ubiquity, University of Houston, Downtown. Curator: Mark Cervenka | O'Kane Gallery – UHD
Map and Sip, an intervention at the Venice Biennale, Venezia

Sky Diaries+Black Box, fabs gallery, Warsaw, Poland

Oh Belgrade!, installation at the U. S. Ambasador's Residence, Belgrade
Sky Diaries, University Gallery, Plzen
Misc.: Out of the Attic, POST Gallery, Los Angeles
The Giving Tree, Senson Gallery, UC Santa Cruz, California

Picasso is Female!, Galerie Navratil, Prague

Bread and a Millstone, Academy of Applied Art, Architecture and Design Praha
The Miller’s Wife, fabs Gallery, Lodz, Poland
Footsteps, the Shed, Newport Beach, California

The Miller’s Wife, Muzeum Horažďovice,

Dialog, Barbara Benish a Vladimír Kokolia, S.C.A.P.B., Corona del Mar, California

The Bride in the Enclosed Garden a další instalace, Galerie města Plzně

Stone Sky, instalace. Stelle Cadenti, Bassano in Teverino, Italy
New Works, The Shed Gallery, Newport Beach, California

Markers. Via Garibaldi, 49.Biennale, Venezia

Barbara Benish: Historical Models/Working Methods, Montgomery Art Center, Pomona, College Museum at Claermont University, California
Hybrid Histories. Montgomery Gall., Pomona College, Claremont, CA, USA
Flower Power. Nábřeží kpt. Jaroše, Praha;

Sand Castles, Huntington Beach Art Center, California, USA

Toy Boats in the Garden. Nadace Hermit – klášter Plasy

Alchymia. Síň pod Plečnikovým schodištěm, Praha
Hadí tanec /Snake Dance. Synagoga Na Palmovce, Praha (hudba P. Goodson)

Big! Am. KS, Praha
Barbara Benish: Works. Kulturbrücke Fratres-Slavonice

Dost vody pro jeden kořen / Water Enough for One Root. Galerie Mánes, Praha (hudba Ph. Noshiro);
The Book of Revelation. Artworks, Los Angeles

Apokalypsa. Malby a instalace, Galerie/zámek Klenová, Galerie U Bílého jednorožce, Klatovy

Furor melancholicus. Stadtgeschichtliche Museen Nurnberg, Dürer Haus
Encuentro. Instalace, Prašná brána
Kresby. Galerie Behémot, Praha
Nude Devices/Divested Encounters. Otis/Parsons Gallery, Los Angeles

Bohemian Elegy. Saxon-Lee Gallery, Los Angeles
Bohemian Elegy. Saxon-Lee gall., L.A.; 1984 – Olja – Akvarell.
Galleri DocentDuk, Stockholm

5 Textiles/5 Paintings. Commons Gallery, University of Hawai, Honolulu
Group exhibitions not included in ARTLIST.
„Horizons“, Komunikační prostor Školská Galerie Nová síň, Praha
NOVA ART FAIR (New Context Gallery), Chicago, USA
„Shifted Focus“, České centrum, New York City, NY; Česká ambasáda, Washington D.C.

2005 – S.C.O.P.E. Art Fair, New York City
„the Holiday Show“, New Context Gallery, Chicago
„psychonauti“, galerie Školská, Praha

2004 – „Certain tracen, Dialogue: Los Angeles/Prague; Barnsdall Municipal Art Gallery, L.A.; POST Gallery, L.A; Pomona College Museum of Art at the Claremont Colleges; Crossroads Gallery, Santa Monica, CA a S.C.A.P.E., Corora del Mar; cestovala do Museum Kampa a Kotlárna, Karlín, Praha

2003 – „Wandering Library“, International Artist’s Museum. Jewish Museum. Benátky

2002 – „Markers II“, EAM Body. Kassel, Německo
„Irrational Propositions“ POST Gallery, Los Angeles

2001 – Night of the Falling Stars. Bassano in Teverino (I) 49th Benátské bienále, výstava „Markers“, Benátky

2000 – „Konec světa“, Národní muzeum, Kinský palác, Praha; Melancholia. MG Brno (kat.); Mapping Space. Klenová

1998 – Založená smlouva. Faustův dům, Praha; The Brewery. L.A.

1997 – On Dürer. La Salle University Museum, Philadelphia (USA); „Jitro kouzelníků?“, Centrum pro moderní a současné umění, Veletržní palác, Praha (J. Anděl); Umění ve veřejném prostoru. NG-VP Praha (kat.)

1996 – The 100 Dollar Show. Post Gall., Los Angeles

1995 – „Felicities“, Jan Baum Gallery, Los Angeles; Printer & Artist. Rocket Contemporary Art, London; Imaginace bolesti. Synagoga Na Palmovce, Praha

1994 – Next Door. GML Praha; M.Y.T.H. Independent Artist Series. The Brewery Gallery, L.A., Ventilation. Project Atelier Toit-du-Monde, Vevey (CH); „Site-actions“, The Artists’s Museum, Cardiff, Velká Británie

1993 – Objects: 16 Los Angeles Sculptors. Armory Center for the Arts, Pasadena (USA); „Sleepless Nights“, P.S.1 Museum, New York; „Construction in Process“, Artist’s Museum, Lodž, Polsko

1992 – „Out of the Blue“, The Vignes Bldg, Downtown Los Angeles, Kalifornie; „Breaking Barriers“, Santa Monica Museum of Art

1991 – World News. Beyond Baroque, Benátky

1990 – „Dialogue Prague/Los Angeles“, Arroyo Arts Collective, Highland Park, Kalifornie; 1989 – „Dialogue Prague/Los Angeles“, galerie Lidový dům; Galerie mladých, Praha (kat.)
New York Public Library Book Collection
Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
The Getty Center, L.A.
Stadtgeschichtliche Museen Nürenberg (D)
Yale University Book Collection, New Haven
Davidson Arts Center, Wesleyan University, Middletown
Boston Public Library (USA)



M. Třeštík, Dialog (Praha/Los Angeles) a monolog (diváka). Tvorba, 1989, č. 34, s. 7.

J. Hlaváček, Výstava B.B. a Adély Matasové. Ateliér 7, 1994, č.11, s.1.

B.B., Emancipation into Solitude (kat. výstavy, M. Pachmanová). Praha 1995

J. Tichá – B. Benish, Dost vody pro jeden kořen. Ateliér 8, 1995, č. 11, s. 4.

V. Čiháková-Noshiro, Zahrada věčnosti. Ateliér 10, 1997, č. 12, s. 4.

C. Chattopadhyay, In the Sphere of Ana Mendieta. Sculpture Magazine, June 1999.

J. Tichá, Hybrid Histories. Ateliér 13, 2000, č. 8, s. 9

J. Tichá, Veřejný prostor jako soukromá věc. Umělec 4, 2000, č. 4, s. 20.

M. Rogers, Flower Power: B.B’s Art in Blossom. Prague Post, 14.6.2000.

C20-2002 Sigismund de Vajey, Toit du Monde: 10 Years (kat. výst.). Vevey 2002.

Barbara Benish, The Miller’s Wife. Młynarzowa. Katalog výstavy v galerii Stowarzyszenie Artystów fabs ve Varšavě, 2006.

Barbara Benish, Encuentro. Katalog výstavy v Prašné bráně, Praha 1992 (texty Zdenka Gabalová, Anne Ayresová)

Encyklopedie českých výtvarných umělců, Česká akademie věd, 2007

Tony Ozuna, „Back to Her Roots“, Prague Post, Sept.20, 2006

„Letošní Art Wall Galerie připomene tragédii autora Stalinova pomníku, www.architekt.cz, 20.11. 2006

Bulkacz, Vanessa, „Art looms large in a small town in Šumava“, Czech Business Weekly, 18.7. 2005

Tony Ozuna, „West Goes East. Barbara Benish Completes the Circle“, Umělec, Vol.9, 1/2005


Center for Contemporary Arts Prague www.fcca.cz 2006–2018
This website is archived by National Library of the Czech Republic within the project WebArchiv