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Benson And Keyes Use Alternative Gallery Space To Curate Art Exhibitions

Originally Posted: August 24, 2009

Colin M. Graham

Curators Kimberly Goff and Julie Keyes at the opening reception for their show “Up and Coming.” Photos by Colin M. Graham

Southampton - On Saturday, Aug. 22 the third opening group exhibition hung by Benson Keyes Art in their alternative gallery space was launched in Southampton, featuring the work of more than 10 local artists.

Featuring artwork by Jason Green, Yong Jo Ji and Anna Atanasova, Mercedes McBrown, Steve Miller, Alexander Perez, Camille Perrottot, Tammy Smith, Audrey Stone, Kevin Teare and Mark Wilson, the exhibit, curated by Kimberly Goff and Julie Keyes and entitled "Up and Coming," focused on bringing together works of both younger up and coming artists along with a few of the art community's veterans.

"This is a non-figurative show of younger artists and the work all lends itself together quite well," said Keyes on opening night. "I think the job of a curator is editing so not only did we choose the artists but we then very carefully picked the work, making a point of picking pieces that work very well together. Even the artists that have shown quite a bit in the Hamptons, the stuff we've picked of their work have been things that haven't necessarily had the same type of play."

The Benson Keyes Art space is a unique, yet contemporary concept as far as galleries go, operating out of a renovated storage garage just outside the Village of Southampton.

The space containing the exhibit was anything but ordinary - held in a renovated storage warehouse on Leecon Court, the gallery evoked a somewhat industrial, highly utilitarian feel that as Goff explained, was part of the appeal of choosing it. "There is a tradition of doing shows in warehouses so it is a contemporary idea and for us it's been very exciting because where else would we have 30 foot ceilings and 28 foot garage doors. We can drive a truck in, unload a sculpture, and drive it out again," Goff pointed out. "We had 400 people here at the last opening and it wasn't crowded. People said it was like having the Elaine Benson Gallery back."

Goff, who is Elaine Benson's daughter, sold the complex that housed the Elaine Benson Gallery because the space was simply more than she could handle alone after her mother's passing, and wound up partnering with Keyes on this new space this summer. "When I closed the gallery in Bridgehampton in 2006, I knew that I wasn't done but I also knew that I couldn't continue in that space, which was enormous and it was too much for me alone," she explained. "When this space became available and Julie brought me over and said we should partner up it was very exciting and interesting and I'm thrilled because she has a lot of energy."

Artist Steve Miller between two of his pieces from his new series "Health of the Planet" depicting tangled power lines he saw in the slums outside of Rio contrasted with x-rayed images of various plants he found in the Amazon.

Steve Miller was on hand displaying his newest series, which consisted of a collection of silkscreened photographs he took down in the jungles of the Amazon and in the Favelas of Rio. "The whole series started when I went to Brazil and I saw a really exotic fruit called a jackfruit," he explained. "I thought it would be really cool to x-ray one and see what they looked like inside and then I was thinking 'wow, if the Amazon are the lungs of the planet, I could give Brazil a medical check-up by x-raying the lungs.' So I took the flora and fauna of the Amazon and brought them to a hospital in San Paolo and made digital x-rays of the plants. Then these other paintings that have these photographs of wires I took in the Favelas. They have this incredibly chaotic need for resources in these cities, so it's about the combination of the chaotic need for resources with the natural resources, which is a conflict that's going on in Brazil right now. It's also a metaphor for the planet so I call the series 'Health of the Planet.'"

Another well established artist, Kevin Teare, was showing an older series that he conceived back in the 1980s while visiting his mother in Indiana. "I was at my mom's house in Indiana and I actually got the flu. I had been doing little interior paintings for her of her lamp and chair and things, and I had a palette. I was hallucinating so badly from my fever that when I looked at the palette, I realized I liked the way it look better than the painting I was making," he said. "So I started using these documents, some of them are found and some of them I designed, as a virtual palette for larger paintings and then I would show the palette with the painting."

Kevin Teare in front of one of his "palette" paintings he does while simultaneously working on other large pieces.

While each of the works on display were essentially created as palettes for larger pieces, Teare explains that they each have their own purpose and stand alone as works of art on two levels. "They're paintings on their own, I don't want to say they're just palettes because I manipulate the paint and whatnot, but a lot of it is just unconscious mixing of paint on the paper." The other level, he points out has to do with the nature of the paint itself. "Real paint is made out of minerals. In the late 19th century they started synthesizing this process and making it out of coal tar and that's where you get acrylic paints," he related. "In the old days, cadmium was a mineral, cobalt was a mineral, so in a way I almost look at this as like a jewelry display case, it's almost like gem quality stuff. That's another thing that I'm attracted to in the way these things appear."

Among the group of younger artists whose work was featured in the show was photographer Jason Green, who was showing a series of abstracted sunsets he took while in Mexico, and Alexander Perez, who featured a new and experimental form of mixed media paintings done in relief. The series both artists had on display were somewhat experimental compared to their previous works.

Photographer Jason Green's abstracted photographs of sunsets were done mostly in camera by using a slow shutter speed while experimenting with twisting the camera body to create the blurred effect.

"The three larger ones are pretty much unedited except for contrast and stuff I did in the darkroom and they're done in camera, meaning the swirl is me moving the camera with a slower shutter," Green said. "The whole series has a lot of contrast between warm and cold color palettes. I also played with white balance; a lot of artists don't play with that digitally, so I changed it around in different ways in custom settings to play with the colors instead of doing it in Photoshop, which is something I'd never done before. I really like the raw, in camera stuff."

As for Perez, his paintings, which were done on canvas that was painted and glued to layers of matte board, came from an idea inspired by his father. "It was really kind of last minute how it came about," he explained. "I had tried experimenting before with matte board and it was kind of cool but it didn't really have the same quality of canvas. I was thinking about getting into the show and was just going to do some regular canvas paintings and couldn't really think of anything until my dad suggested I try this again."

Alexander Perez explained that his collection of mixed media paintings were a new medium that developed out of a suggestion by his father and previous works that he had experiment with using matte board to create depth and texture in his work.

The process he developed is incredibly intricate, with each piece conveying the hours of detail oriented labor Perez put into his work. "I take a matte board and glue canvas on then I draw it up, cut it and glue it again in the paintings. I usually paint them before I glue them in and I do the leaves in just canvas, It took me a half an hour to cut just one piece out," he said. "It got faster towards then end but at first it took me nine days to make the first one." Despite it being a departure from his previous work, Perez was excited about this new medium, and seemed eager to attack larger projects in a similar manner. "It's a new medium for me and I really would like to stick with it, maybe make a huge jungle scene next, with each leaf cut out."

Like each of the previous shows at Benson Keyes Art, the opening reception on Saturday was followed the next evening by performance art by the Xochipilli Mexican Dance Troop. While Benson and Keyes will be closing their gallery for the fall, moving into an office above Larry Gagosian's gallery in Chelsea, the pair hope to be back next season. "We have had this space all summer and for the fall and winter we'll have an office," said Benson. "If it turns out this space is available next summer we hope to be here and if not we'll find another rogue space." "Up and Coming" will be on display through Sept. 6. Call the gallery at 631-523-5157 or at 917-509-1379 for more information.


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