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Benjamin Kress

New Paintings

Opening: Friday, November 3, 6–8pm

November 3 – December 22, 2017

A gathering of three women, naked, painted photorealistically in red, yellow, and blue. They look like they are made of cellophane, and are reflective, somewhat flat.

Strange Muses III, 2017. Oil on linen, 56 x 42 inches (142.2 x 106.7 cm)

A painting of a semi-photorealistic naked woman, folding onto herself like a piece of paper. Next to her is an identical silhouette drawn in grey. She is in an abstracted room: walls and a window at left but no other details.

Strange Muses II, 2017. Oil on linen, 56 x 42 inches (142.2 x 106.7 cm)

A semi-photorealistic painting of a naked woman kneeling on the ground, looking at a clear mask in her hands. She is looking at a grey wall, which projects her shadow. there is a black wall behind her, outlined in yellow/orange like a light is lit behind it.

Strange Muses I, 2017. Oil on linen, 56 x 42 inches (142.2 x 106.7 cm)

A painting of a face made out of cellophane, somewhat photorealist. There are tones of green, blue, purple, yellow.

Cellophane Face, 2017. Oil on linen, 20 x 16 inches (50.8 x 40.6 cm)

A painting of two floating masks painted in blue, seemingly laughing with mouths open. They are above a green ground, and against a black background.

Double LOLZ, 2017. Oil on linen, 16 x 20 inches (40.6 x 50.8 cm)

A painting of a face laughing, seemingly encased in a diamond which refracts and mutates the features of the face itself. It is painted in blue and black tones.

LOL Diamond, 2017. Oil on linen, 8 x 6 inches (20.3 x 15.2 cm)

A painting of an abstracted face of a diamond. There is refracted color, and the artwork is mostly black. At the top-left, there are wisps of cream, blue, and white to indicate shine.

Black Diamond, 2017. Oil on linen, 8 x 6 inches (20.3 x 15.2 cm)

A painting of a diamond face, which is mostly light blue and white. There is a red horizontal blemish that touches both sides of the painting.

Flawed Diamond, 2017. Oil on linen, 8 x 6 inches (20.3 x 15.2 cm)

A painting of an abstracted diamond cross section, with multiple rounds of refraction. The entire canvas is made of pink tones with a few blue accents.

Pink Diamond, 2017. Oil on linen, 8 x 6 inches (20.3 x 15.2 cm)

Press Release

Callicoon Fine Arts is pleased to announce an exhibition of new oil paintings by Benjamin Kress, on view from November 3 to December 22, 2017. Created over the last year, the work presents the viewer with images of a mysterious recurring masked figure that is folded, deformed and transformed by light, and a series of diamonds.

In this body of work, traditional material techniques are used to delve into contemporary ideas about the fabrication of the self and its relationship to image. The paintings are slowly made, built up through layers of smoothed grounds, underpainting, and transparent glazed brushwork to create luminous surfaces. The source imagery for the paintings was developed through a multi-step process. Kress sculpted and cast a mask of an idealized, difficult-to-pin down character, an empty yet evocative hybrid face visually rooted in the vernacular of fashion imagery. Photographs of the artist wearing the mask were crafted into ephemeral paper and cellophane sculptures and rephotographed. The figures are cryptic, striking art-historical poses as they mask and unmask themselves. They are faceted and cubist, crumpled and unfolded, 2-dimensional beings occupying 3-dimensional space. In some of the paintings the figures are highly reflective, in others, the light is diffracted, breaking into color spectrums.  

The figuration is counterpointed with a series of painted diamonds. Diamonds, like the figures, are objects formed through pressure, and in the visual similarity and economic disparity of diamond and cellophane throughout the exhibition, a dialogue about value emerges. Within the gallery of shimmering, dematerializing figures and diamonds, beauty and idealizations are sought after, destabilized, and distorted. The body is seen both as an image to be viewed, and as a distorted lens through which we view things; permeable, ephemeral, a mirage that can slip away without ever quite defining the soul of the matter.

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In addition, on December 16, 2017, Benjamin Kress and Dia Dear will present a performance collaboration incorporating visual elements from Kress’s artwork. Dia Dear is a movement-based performance artist whose practice is influenced by their early work in the drag and performance scenes of San Francisco. Exploring crossover in the two artists interests, Dia Dear will enact a piece about masking, the body, theatricality and emotion. 

Benjamin Kress (b. 1976, Bozeman, MT) lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. He has had solo exhibitions at Callicoon Fine Arts, New York, NY; Derek Eller Gallery project room, New York, NY; helper, Brooklyn, NY; and Galeria André Viana, Porto, Portugal. He has participated in numerous group exhibitions and collaborations. Kress studied painting at The Cooper Union School of Art, New York, NY (BFA 2000), L’École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts, Paris, France (Exchange Program, 1998), and The Yale University School of Art, New Haven, CT (MFA 2004).

For additional information contact Photi Giovanis at info@callicoonfinearts.com, or call 212-219-0326.

Callicoon Fine Arts is located at 49 Delancey Street between Forsyth and Eldridge Streets. Gallery hours are Wednesday to Sunday, 10:30am to 6:30pm. The nearest subway stops are the B and D trains at Grand Street and the F, J, M and Z trains at Delancey-Essex Street. 

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