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John Beech, 2002

Where John Beech's work is concerned, expect the unexpected. Rather than resorting to the traditional materials of a painter or sculptor, Beech often uses objects that are so ordinary and utilitarian that most of us look right past them. Presented in his sometimes quirky, always intriguing way, they become part painting, part sculpture, and are entirely recognizable as finely wrought works of art. Consider the concrete "bumpers" that keep your car from moving too far forward in a parking lot. Most of us would never give them a second thought; John Beech sees them (and potentially everything else) as artistic forms and fabricates replicas of them, altered just enough to provide the viewer with a strong jolt of the unpredictable.

Beech's interest in using ordinary materials in unexpected ways stems partly from his experiences in Morocco and India. In these countries many materials were recycled for different uses simply out of necessity. Beech was still a student when he traveled to Fez, an ancient city in the north of Morocco. Impressed with the combination of real stillness and lively motion that he found there, he was particularly drawn to the beauty of architectural elements such as walls, which reminded him of the work of Antoni Tąpies. 

He was also fascinated by the ordinary materials (such as flattened tin cans or duct tape) reused there to patch or supply missing elements for utilitarian objects. The result was almost always unusual and quite often beautiful as well. "A lot of the world is like that," he notes, "especially in developing countries; but even in New York, the archetypal city of the 20th Century, it's amazing how makeshift things are." Such solutions may sometimes not look right and often won't work for long, but, as Beech sees it, there's "a lot of humanity in that." This humanity of rough edges and "making do" interested him more than the polished, relatively detached look of the work of many reductive artists. For him it was more important that his own work be accessible and be "imbedded in the world rather than separate."

Returning from Morocco for his final year at the University of California at Berkeley, Beech abandoned his earlier interest in architecture in favor of complete concentration on art courses. By then he had decided on a career as an artist, which he pursued first in San Francisco and then, after participating in the 1996 biennial at the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, DC, in New York. His work has been received enthusiastically by critics and collectors alike.

Beech grew up in England; his family moved to the U.S. in 1981, when his father took a position in the computer industry in the Silicon Valley. Besides travel, his interests include tennis (he considers himself a serious player) and reggae music (he considers himself a serious collector). One can imagine that both these interests have encouraged his innate preference for spontaneity, which is an important element in Beech's process. He enjoys the challenge of things that don't quite work as expected, regarding them as chances for finding a new way of seeing the world and of making art.

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