New Works on Paper
For immediate release
Rawson Projects is very proud to announce its second solo exhibition with Ben Berlow.
The artist will debut a new series of works on paper that introduce new materials and techniques, but continue his interest in the features of found materials to create unique, intimate and gestural compositions that, though abstracted, emphasize a latent narrative in the way he chooses to exaggerate the imperfections of the material.
A conversation between the gallery and the artist follows.
Rawson Projects: First of all, let’s discuss how you developed as artist. You didn’t take a particularly “traditional” route to becoming a visual artist in the sense that you weren’t formally trained as a painter or sculptor. What drove you to pursue making your own work?
Ben Berlow: I was never formally trained in art. But, I have taken courses in ceramics, art history, and architecture throughout my education. It was several years after college that I started making things for myself. I had worked for a couple galleries and would come home each night and type about my days. I had saved paper in a pile in a range of sizes for typing on. Then one night I spoke to an artist at his opening about a drawing, and, soon after, made a work of my own on a large brown piece of paper with a small old can of enamel that I'd inherited with the apartment. I bought more paint and made similar works and taped them up to the wall, but, when they were dry, I piled them under my bed. I can't remember what I was feeling or what I thought I was doing other than making a figure or shape that I wanted to look at.
RP: Almost all of your work is done on paper, and the pieces are usually created on a table. What strikes me most about working this way is that it’s intimate. When I look at a piece, I want to see it up close. The work really communicates well that way. You’ve even said that sometimes you find it difficult to relate to your work when it’s framed and on a wall. What appeals to you about working this way?
BB: Yes, I have trouble with framing and hanging. I make my works on a table and usually pile them up, press them in books, and put them away. I regard something very intently when it is being made and go through piles to edit or finish incomplete works, but presentation and framing are very hard decisions. I work on a table now because it feels right; I would not know how to work on an easel or any other way, though I used to work only on the floor. Perhaps its because I make things and put them away that I forget the alignment and dating of many things when I have to sign them.
RP: The idea of choice also seems fundamental to understanding your work. I often look at a piece, and wonder why you chose a specific material, a certain color, and how you chose to accentuate or exaggerate certain parts of that material with that specific color. What attracts you to using found materials? Would you say these choices are conscious or planned or more intuitive?
BB: I have a hard time throwing things away that I like the look or feel of. Generally I use paper that has been used for another purpose because it comes with some inherent lines, its a color other than the bright white of most paper and each piece is unique. The existing folds, markings, or color may suggest something, or I used them as counterpoints to what I want to make.
RP: There are some materials you seem to use over and over – envelopes, brown paper, and the pages of books, for example. Is there something specific that attracts you to these materials? Is there a nostalgic or emotional connection, or is it purely and aesthetic you find appealing?
BB: Though I would like to think I don't have a nostalgic or emotional connection to certain pieces of paper, the fact that I save them and use them to work on later must mean something. It is mainly for the look and feel of something that I save it, but its history as a thing in a way stays with it.
RP: Finally, you make a lot of work, but usually decide to only show a portion of what you make. What, in your view, makes a successful work? When are you satisfied?
BB: It can be pleasurable, but sometimes difficult to go through old piles and boxes of things and edit out what I like, and throw away things I don't like. I will rework old things or keep them around for one reason or another, but it is generally cathartic to let go of works, giving them to someone else to frame or live with. I usually have an idea in my head of what I want to make with a pencil, paint, and paper at hand, and when I make that thing and it looks back at me in a way, that is something distinct and worth holding onto.
Ben Berlow (b. 1980, Los Angeles, CA) lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. Berlow’s work has been exhibited widely in New York at venues such as Feature Inc., James Fuentes LLC, Jack Hanley, Martos Gallery, among others. In 2011, Berlow was the subject of a one-person exhibition at Rawson Projects, which was reviewed by Artforum. Berlow holds a B.A. from Vassar College, New York.
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