Mark Moore Fine Art is pleased to present “Gel Variations,” a solo online exhibition of Ben Charles Weiner’s recent paintings. In these works, Weiner acts out the adage that “we are the sum of our habits” through a sort of painterly double entendre: by executing a series of rigorous formal operations upon his long-favored subject of hair gel, Weiner iterates his own identity as an aggregation of daily routines—whether in the studio, or in front of the bathroom mirror.
Weiner’s formal engagement with hair gel takes the form of three suites of paintings: Gel Monochromes, Gel Formations, and Gel Abstracts. His varied engagements with hair gel position it between subject and medium, melding representational and process-oriented approaches to image-making.
In Gel Formations, the newest of these suites to his oeuvre, Weiner explores hair gel’s sculptural potential. Despite the paintings’ stark black and white color schemes, the luminous formations they depict appear organic, recalling post-minimalist works such as Lynda Benglys’ poured forms. Weiner creates them by coaxing clear gel into a variety of shapes resembling organic ice sculptures, or more ominously, melting glaciers.
In Weiner’s Gel Monochromes, he considers painterly appropriation by using only colors issued by his preferred hair gel brand, L.A. Looks. This commercially-defined palette serves as the starting point for each piece. Weiner proceeds by photographing the gel in motion within its bottle. He then employs these photographs as sources for his painted compositions, arriving at works that consider monochrome painting’s relationship to the mechanical.
Finally in his Gel Abstracts, Weiner moves toward expressionism. By dripping and pouring various gel colors within a glass box, all the while photographing this occurrence, he approaches a form of poured abstraction. Weiner’s practice of photographing the gel, and then painting it, mediates pure expression, and reflects his long-standing concern with the controls we place upon our bodies. As in all of Weiner’s work, there is a tongue in cheek aspect: by using a synthetic kitsch product as his medium, he can simultaneously engage in self expression, and revel in its impossibility.
A major thematic touchstone for all of these works is traditional still life painting, and the metaphorical resonance of ordinary household objects. Still life painting uses close observation to, in the words of Norman Bryson in his book Looking at the Overlooked- “assault the centrality, value, and prestige of the human subject.” Weiner magnifies his subjects to the point where their materiality overwhelms the viewer, reflecting our anxieties about the sources of our household products and the politics of the companies that make them-- in short, the environmental and economic impact of the lifestyles we hold so dear. Thus by practicing supposedly “pure” formalism, Weiner reflects the impossibility of such purity-- as he meditates upon the excesses of the present.
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