Museum to display Benton posters

Aspen Times StaffAspen, CO Colorado
Tom Benton's vintage Aspen wall posters have been iconic images for the city of Aspen and the Roaring Fork Valley for more than 35 years. (Aspen Times file)

ASPEN From 2-6 p.m. Saturday, the Aspen Historical Society will host a grand opening for its new exhibit on the works of Tom Benton, perhaps Aspen’s best-known artist.Titled “Thomas W. Benton: Politics, Prose and Poetry,” the event will take place in the second-floor gallery at the Wheeler/Stallard House museum, at the corner of Sixth and Bleeker in Aspen’s West End. The grand opening is free and open to the public.

Well-known for his many political posters and distinctive artistic style, Benton had been a resident of the Aspen area for more than 40 years when he died in May after a short battle with cancer.A self-described malcontent, Benton was nearly pugilistic in his zeal for putting his feelings into his art, and for backing up his artistic statements with demonstrations or face-to-face debate.Along with a group of ’60s-era anti-war activists, he once famously blocked then-U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara’s driveway in Snowmass Village, in order to debate the propriety and legality of the Vietnam War.

He also took part in a demonstration protesting the underground testing of a nuclear device near Rifle in 1969, and created a poster to commemorate the event and the protest.Benton designed posters for such national politicians as George McGovern and Gary Hart, as well as for a raft of local politicians, including former Pitkin County Sheriff Dick Kienast, former mayors John Bennett and Helen Klanderud, and current Pitkin County Sheriff Bob Braudis.His most famous political piece, however, was the iconic poster for Hunter Thompson’s campaign for Pitkin County sheriff in 1970, which fans all over the world still buy, both over the Internet and at local galleries.

Though his political art was arguably his most popular work, over the course of his artistic career Benton produced numerous monoprints, serigraphs, and even a rare piece of pottery or two.The exhibit will show more than 45 of the artist’s pieces and run through the winter.Refreshments will be available at the opening reception. Regular museum hours are 1-5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. For more information, call the Aspen Historical Society at 925-3721.