Ben Schonzeit was a pioneer in the 1960s SoHo art scene in Manhattan and became the youngest of the original thirteen Photorealist artists in the 1970s that included artists such as Cluck Close and James Rosenquist. He was born in Brooklyn in 1942 and developed a love and talent for painting and composition from an early age. He attended Cooper Union in New York City enjoying superb artistic training, originally studying architecture, but then switching to fine art graduating with a BFA in 1964. Beginning with an extraordinary group of crisp, tightly painted works based on photographs he made in downtown Manhattan, Schonzeit’s career blossomed in the 1970s when Photorealism came into its own. Photorealism generally defines a type of painting that is inspired by the realistic precision and detail of a photograph meaning photography has always remained paramount to Schonzeit’s artistic practice. Schonzeit himself discovered the aesthetic potential of everyday objects in exquisitely painted, large-scale translations of photographs.
Since the mid-1980s Schonzeit has been creating imaginative and painterly setups that often involve the use of his own paintings as the backdrop, and photographs them. He has produced a stunning series of prints using the alternative process of the cibachrome print. In a recent series, he places lovely bouquets of flowers against backdrops of modern master paintings (Monet, Degas, Watteau), creating an artistic dialogue between art history and contemporary still life. Continually creating new imagery, lately Schonzeit has created a series of collages using collected periodicals in order to create from nothing instead of based on something that already exists. His penetrating explorations of consciousness made a quick and lasting impression and found their way into the collections of many major museums in the United States and Europe. These include the Guggenheim in New York, the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin, the Brooklyn Museum of Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Schonzeit continues to live and work in New York City.