Exhibition visit and interview at Current Space featuring curator Erick Antonio Benitez, August, 2021
‘Lux’ curated by Erick Antonio Benitez
Lux Curatorial Statement
the SI unit of illuminance, equal to one lumen per square meter.
Brian Eno album
Featuring: Carolyn Forrester, Sylv Litz, Bing Liu, Danni O’Brien, and Bartosz Tararuj, Erick Antonio Benitez
A: CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE TITLE AND IDEA AROUND THIS EXHIBITION?
Erick: Lux comes from a Brian Eno album. I got curious about why he titled the album Lux, so I looked it up and found out that lux is actually a measuring unit for light. It reminded me of how a lot of artists are concerned with light in their work, especially in the context of painting. I first started talking with Bing Lui about this, when we had our first studio visits. We were talking about color and the expansion of painting and the various dialects outside of its traditional context. That’s where the domino effect of curating the exhibition began. I started thinking about other artists who were also stretching the language of painting and finding threads that intersected such as textures, use of light, form, and color relationships. Seeing a connection of sampling both literally and conceptually, was another point of reference that kept coming up in the conversation during the studio visits with Sylv, Bart, Carolyn and Danni. Similar to musical sampling. Going back to the word Lux, it hints at the word luxury. This was a synchronicity that occurred with the work in the exhibition. Conceptually and literally there is a play of hierarchical object relationships that become reinterpreted, modified, or upcycled into colorfield compositions, whimsical forms, and textures with peculiar sensibilities.Elevating objects to become flashy commodified satires. This sampling in a way connects to everyone’s work but in distinct approaches and narratives.
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN IN BALTIMORE AND CAN EACH OF YOU TALK BRIEFLY ABOUT YOUR WORK IN THE SHOW AND HOW YOU FEEL IT RELATES OVERALL TO YOUR PRACTICE?
B: I went to MICA for undergrad and afterward stayed in Baltimore. As you all can see my work is very abstract, but in a way many of my inspiration really just comes from daily walking around. Throughout my day I will constantly sample colors from people’s clothing, graffiti, construction items to even sometimes, beer cans lying on the side of the street if they caught my eyes at that moment. I tend to have a good memory of what I see in the day and further contrast it with unconnected colors in my paintings later. For example, once I went to buy something at Nordstrom and there was a hand sanitizer that was neon green and then there were these two products from the same company that were different shades of purple and then I thought something was missing for it to be a killer piece of painting… Just at that moment someone in line pulled out a neon pink wallet and I was like ‘that’s it, that’s my formula!’ Also, I think a lot about forms and architectures as well during the process of my painting and how a shape or form can be very concrete and specific as a subject when served in any painting but free-flowing when it’s under the context of abstraction. These dynamics between theories and play really allows me to shuttle between solidity and fluidity and create mirages which could invite the viewers to imagine and meditate on their own behalf.
C: I went to MICA for graduate school and I’ve been in Baltimore for about three years. My paintings in the exhibition are representative of a larger body of work of ‘finance paintings’ that I began over the past year. I had been looking at German news sources and economic reporting and stumbled upon an image of the Frankfurt stock exchange that had been edited with a strange scoping mechanism that centered the focus of the photograph on a man working at a computer. It was very 90s graphic design. I thought this scoping mechanism was an interesting pictorial device and way of entering a painting or situating the viewer. Especially in combination with the stock exchange imagery, it’s slightly forensic, accusatory, but also disorienting or has something to do with an immobilization of body / time. And the light in these paintings is also unstable, flickering, a very digital light.
So both paintings in the show are explicitly attached to that original idea around perceptual scoping and instability of the image. I was also interested in a painting that would cohere much more in a photograph than in person, and would demand a certain viewing or foreground its ability to be viewed at different distances / proximities. As you move back and forth from these paintings, your ability to understand what’s there is constantly shifting.
In general, I am interested in painting’s ability to generate a gap of uncertainty between the image presented and what the painting itself might mean, and hope to use it to interrogate how ideas like content, authorship and value are performed within painting conventions. The larger question of the work lies is how meaning and value are produced by painting in a contemporary determined by financial markets and logics of speculation, securitization, disembodied viewership and image hyper-proliferation
D: I’ve been in Baltimore for about two and a half years. I have two sculptures and two wall works in this show and they’re quintessential of my current studio practice. In the studio I tinker, toy, play with, and mend materials I collect from trash piles, thrift stores, and craigslist free ads. I am interested in the histories of the objects I accumulate and how, when, and why these objects are deemed useless or unnecessary. I haphazardly assemble and retrofit them together without adhesive so the sculptures are inherently and literally precarious. They are then coated in a kneaded paper pulp membrane I concoct from a recipe I learned watching HGTV as a kid.
Recently, I tried to shift my practice away from making large sculptures because I was running out of studio space. I turned to outdated thrift store textbooks and diy construction books for their beautiful diagrams. The two wall works in the show feature newly collected diagrams that are decontextualized and routed into foam, then layered with smooshed paper mache, found cleaning and organizational objects, and pipe cleaners. They seem to function as a semi instructional or useful device, but without any context, they’re useless.
S: I have been based in the greatest city in America since 2019. I have always been a bit of a nomad. I spent my first year of graduate school at MICA in Hoffberger School of Painting. My bio mom got sick over quarantine, and she passed away the same day my family built up the courage to inform me about her condition. After losing her, in April of 2020, I felt pulled to follow my intuition, I felt as if no moment could be wasted. I soon manifested a transfer into the Mount Royal School of Multidisciplinary Art. My work changed drastically, the color palette stayed the same, but it made a huge jump from 2-D to 3-D and even sound. I have always been experimental, but not to this extent. When I graduated in May of 2021, I realized how much the loss of my mother had changed my work, and how much I had grown as a person. Magic exists outside of what we’re accustomed to.The elegance, in taking these intense and poetic yet deeply personal themes. Wrapped up into such simple entities with grace. I like to make something that seems so simple and yet is packed so full. The work is no longer performative, it is candid and earnest. Mi origen y mi fin (my origin and my ending) is something I kept thinking about when making the pieces now displayed in Lux.
NOW THAT THE SHOW IS INSTALLED- ARE THERE ANY INTERESTING DIALOGUES HAPPENING OR UNEXPECTED MOMENTS THAT ARE EXCITING TO YOU?
E: The way I usually curate is that I try to extend outside creative circles or grouping artists who I don’t see showing together often. This show was planned a bit faster than usual in regards to my short timeline in Baltimore (while in the process of moving). It was just destined that way. Part of me was a little bit nervous about the result of having to orchestrate this exhibition in a short timeframe , but once things started getting grouped and going up on the walls of the gallery there was a nice harmony of colors, forms, and texture that started to occur. The sculptural work by Sylv and Danni’s really held the show together. Creating a nice and subtle crescendo. I also notice an exciting visual layering happening from Bart’s minimal work then leaping into the busier works in the exhibition.So in that regard, it reminds me of music. The conceptual aspects are definitely there too. Movement is another theme that holds everything together, contrasting between the kinetic and two dimensional work.
D: One of Bart’s paintings is a long, tall minimal piece with a blue line and next to it is one of my wall pieces that has an appendage of a single blue tube. Our blue elements are nearly mirrored and there’s something nice about the whimsy of that one line. It feels like a dance or the beginning of the continuation from flat / paint to dimensional / sculpture that vibrates through all the works in the show.
ERICK, I KNOW YOU ARE ABOUT TO LEAVE BALTIMORE, CAN YOU TALK ABOUT YOUR EXPERIENCE HERE AND YOUR NEXT MOVE?
In the sense of curating, that’s something that has encompassed the last ten years in Baltimore for me. Recently Ariel and I closed The Parlour, our collaborative artist-run project space in Mt. Vernon that we co-curated for the past 3 years. The moving was so fast so I didn’t have much time to process, but it hit me in the last two days-all the great memories and shows. I’m really grateful for the Baltimore creative community. It’s very supportive and dynamic. There’s so much good stuff happening here. And as someone who is a frequent traveler, I still think Baltimore is one of the best art cities in the world. It’s bittersweet to leave after spending so much time here. I’m moving to LA and going to attend a 2 year MFA multidisciplinary program at CaArts, which I believe really fits the focus of my current art practice. Though I will be mainly based in LA, I hope to create some bridges between Baltimore and LA through curation and network community building. I’m really excited for the things that will unfold in the future.
DO EACH OF YOU HAVE ANYTHING ELSE YOU’D LIKE TO PROMOTE?
C: My roommate and I run a gallery space called Inadequate Lighting in our apartment in Baltimore, and our current show is called Hostipitality, by DC-based artist Misha Ilin. The show is all about the host-guest relationship and the hostilities and hospitalities embedded in that relationship, a metaphor that Ilin extends to the relationship between gallerists and artists, artists and the public, and governments and their citizens and what is and isn’t permitted. Ilin plans to auction off the air in the gallery space, a communal decision-making process to determine the value of the air, which will then determine the rules within the gallery space. This auction situation is paired with imagery from extra-terrestrial and dystopian environments in which air does not exist or in which rights to the use of the air have been deprived. Air is the main formal element, so there will be balloons, champagne and medical light boxes featuring images from Total Recall.
D: I have a show coming up at Towson which opens Sept. 9th. It’s a solo show called “How to Shrimp Cocktail” which gets its name from my obsession with the color range of uncooked to cooked shrimp, my disdain for shrimp as a result of overconsuming it as a child, and how bizarre shrimp look and feel when dangling off fancy cocktail glasses. The works in the show include and evolve from some of the works in Lux and explore precarity, conspicuous consumption, and my queer identity.
I also have a piece in a show “Object Lounge” that opens during Upstate Art Weekend (August 27-29) at Collar Works in Troy, New York.
B: I have a show back in China. It’s called the Universe Gallery. Luckily, my work was still at home so my family was able to ship it out to them.
S: From Aug. 30- Sept 30, I will be showing a piece at Julio Arts Gallery amongst other fiber artists, juried by Victoria Rose Pass.
I was the Art director for Dreams Of My Father, a film created by my dear friend James A. Burkhalter. It was recently selected with the award of merit, LGBTQ Unbordered International Film Festival 2021. You can find out more information here
I participated in a short film by Boob Sweat for Linnea Poole’s solo show, Kuomboleza. The work explores the process of mourning. The show will be up from Aug. 30-Nov. 22 at the Rouse Company Foundation Gallery.
I will be part of the zine, Lyrics with / out music. The Zine is part of the curatorial project “A Quiet Transition,” an experimental, curatorial project that aims to adopt lullaby as a poetic, generative framework to create restful and contemplative experiences by Bao Nguyen, will be released in November.
WHEN CAN THE PUBLIC VISIT THE SHOW?
The gallery hours are Friday and Saturday 1 – 5. It’s up until August 28th. It’s also open by appointment.