Devening Projects invites you to the opening of It’s Such a Gamble When You Get a Face, a solo exhibition from Aviv Benn. The opening takes place on Sunday, October 21st and will continue until December 8th.
There are times when we feel like screaming. Raging, seething, wailing, grieving. Is there a more fitting way to face the current state of our world? So very many levels of madness rising to the surface that it can be difficult to determine to whom and where exactly it should be directed. For me, Aviv Benn’s response-via-painting is a perfect reactive strategy; it’s precisely what makes this such an important and timely exhibition.
Aviv Benn takes all of this pent up fury and brings it into a remarkable series of paintings featured in It’s Such a Gamble When You Get a Face. With this new work we begin to see how an artist takes on these challenges and confronts them head on. She transmogrifies these experiences and turns them into assertive and ambitious paintings. That transformation is so dexterous that we might easily bypass the real subject to become fully seduced by the visual ecstasies in front of us. Declarative color, muscular paint handling and figurative invention take us into a theatrical and dream-like world and hold us captive by the undeniable emotion expressed by her subjects. The attraction of these paintings may start with a sophisticated formal language, but when digging deeper, past the rich surfaces and the taffy-like ribbons of pigment and mark, we are fully conscious of the levels of feeling not so easily peeled away. These characters are permanently and painfully altered by their circumstances. The twist and bends of body parts and facial expressions tell us that they’ve lived and persevered and have been changed in the process. She’s confronting these feelings directly with the authority of an artist who’s willing to tell both a deeply resonant story while excavating the sources of that pain. She’s does all this with such empathy and care that we are folded deeply into the experience.
Despite the temerity of her project, the work delivers a surprising and subtle sense of absurd humor. Like the strangest dream, Aviv Benn’s paintings bring to mind the psychological necessity of revealing the darkest thoughts through farce. The characters are funny; their bodies are full of exaggerated flaws, possibly caused by pratfalls and stumbles. Those deformations are common in comics and animated characters, but Aviv Benn’s depictions take on a more tragic tone. Their expressions might be laughing or screaming; for us, the psychology is a reflection of our own conflicted state of being. It’s easy to snicker at some of the vignettes in this work, but that laugh will be an uncomfortable and short-lived gesture. It’s our empathy for everyone and everything in the work that becomes the real take away from this exhibition.
(b. 1988, Tel-Aviv) Aviv Benn received her MFA in Painting and Drawing at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2018 and her BFA at the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in 2013. Benn has had solo exhibitions at Raw Art Gallery in Tel Aviv in 2017, and Art von Frei Gallery in Berlin in 2016. She has participated in various group exhibitions in New York, Chicago, Berlin, Leipzig and Tel-Aviv. Benn has received the Rabinovich Foundation Grant in 2015. Aviv Benn lives and works in Chicago.