opened SAT APRIL 12, 2014
the show runs thru MAY 18, 2014
HRS: SAT & SUN / 1-7 PM

the gallery space was the perfect setting for viewing the work. serious, quiet, not too big. with nice clean, modern lines.
but, still lots of old time – character back outside on the street.

modern plate glass storefront windows allowed a flood of natural light to play up Ben’s nuanced color block hues, and, the seriously ‘off’ tonality of the work . . did well, in the natural light.

the plastic ‘fictional’ i.e. creative tensions on the paper, and the very real – real estate tensions . . outside in the street, kind of went hand-in-hand. the power plays of gentrification – starting to play hardball, wrecking havoc with the rents. people moving in, people moving out. some happy, some sad. like they say . . a million stories, nothing stays still for long, in this town.

just even on the very block of the gallery. you could feel it.
the contrast between the old walk-ups, the mom & pop hardware stores now shuttered, and with fading signs . . the chic hipster hang-outs, great pop-up restaurants, and the ‘rush’ of new beginnings. it’s not a matter of good or bad, it’s just . . the new wave, coming in like it always does. it’s classic New York City moment, it’s both exciting, and . . super fraught with tension.
yeah, Greenpoint was right at the tipping point, and just about to fall over on the other side, hard.
you could so feel the ‘pulse’ of change in the air, you could smell it.

the works were small, but strangely dynamic beyond their inherent scale . . each work on paper with its own ‘pulse’ . . talking bout, pulse. just saying.
the swings of their individual . . emotive and compositional range, each offering up a differing pictorial ‘focus’, or ‘story’ was clearly apparent – as the diversely proportioned selection . . ran playfully along the walls.

BEN BERLOW . . with JAMES MORRILL, a partner in the gallery.
as it happens, this gallery – RAWSON PROJECTS . . seems to have an unofficial ‘acorn fallen off the tree’ aspect, that tree being DAVID ZWIRNER GALLERY in Chelsea, esp today with this show . . in that BEN BERLOW happens to be the registrar at Zwirner, while James Morrill is their Director of Finance.

meanwhile, CHRIS RAWSON, the other partner in the gallery, and from whom it takes its name . . is the archivist at ZWIRNER.
it’s always good to have a day job, when you are starting a new gallery, esp from the street up.
but when that day job provides experience, and gallery skills, not to forget the essential ‘networking’ . . it’s a no-brainer.

it was interesting to watch people really engage with the work. though the work seems simple at first glance, there is a lot of compression, both of ideas and forces . . in those defining lines, shapes, and color fields – that just open up, and, then . . like they say: game on.
as well there was something about the small scale of the work, as opposed to the huge color field paintings of many generations back by now, that brought the viewer ‘in’, as opposed to . . say, ‘taking over’.
it’s not as easy as you think, to carry that off.

so much so-called abstract art today, is just so bad, don’t get me started.
I’m talking 99% of it. I’m thinking, people who don’t know anything about art, turn to quote, abstract art because if they seriously can’t make heads or tails of it, that must make it . . good ?
when it’s really quite the opposite.
abstract art, good abstract art lays down a very very well written trail.

BEN BERLOW, ‘Untitled’, 2013. acrylic, gouache on paper. 33 x 25-1/4 in.
entrancing and tough, not too tough, and more entrancing. that’s ok with me.

the brown paper surface was an integral, intimate element of the work. it was all about a subtle universe of scale, where even the small crinkles of the paper, and its borders, including a serrated edge, played a part.
even the ‘commercialism’ of the paper, as well as the ‘found’ aspect – played into the whole story presented here. it was 24-7 pure / pictorial forces at work. no slackers.

small measures – became like tidal waves.
shadows, enter the equation, too.
it’s really, the work – not all that ‘flat’, or ‘still’ – as it appears to be on first impression.
no flat screen here.
it’s kinetic – in its own way. very subtle.
of course if you frame it, you are going to have to include a slight depth to the interior ‘box’ of the frame, and . . ‘floating’ the work – with no overlapping mat, is the only way to go.

it’s interesting to google Ben’s early work, and see just how focused, and evolved the journey has become.

BEN BERLOW, ‘Untitled’, 2013. Acrylic and gouache on paper. Two parts:
left: 25 x 7 in. / right: 25 x 9-1/2 in.

this piece was unique in that it was a two-parter.
the space between the two paper surfaces . . helped emphasize the contrasts, or dynamics at work.
though the color work was very very . . gentle.

it’s the opposing shapes, the way the borders, or edges get defined. and of course, the varying degree of ‘hue’ that is imparted to the paint areas.
the un-painted paper, what we call the negative space, took on an important role.
in a nutshell . .
it’s kind of a . . ‘shape-shifter’.

it struck me as very oriental in impulse, as well.
very zen. lots of opposition, but, no . . war !!

BEN BERLOW, ‘Untitled’, 2013. Casein on brown paper, graphite. 22.5 x 14 in.

I esp liked this piece, it plays out like a more apparent . . ‘puzzler’.
more straight-forward, less rounded, what can I say.
that about suits . . my mood these days.
no-nonsense, just show me the real stuff !!

and though, I was very happy just to gaze upon these works as pure non-objective abstraction . . poems without words, I did finally take the time to read an accompanying artist statement, a printed hand-out, available on the gallery reception desk, which takes the form of a ‘conversation with the gallery’. . in which you learn these pieces were done while Ben was lucky enough to be on a residency
in the rural countryside, specifically . . Steep Rock Arts, in Connecticut. and so yes there may be some residue of the sun’s orb, and the landscape in that ‘Two Parter’, or an actual barn roof rhythm in this one . . but, I think mostly what you feel, intuitively . . is that he got to really step back, and immerse himself in the solitude of being, and was able to slow down . . and really think. and . . feel. and then express that.
also you get a sense of his being so aware of how rare this is, in his life, in all of our fast paced lives, today. add to that, the super powerful feeling of knowing that this is . . just such a lucky break, such a special moment in your life, and . . yes, in such beautiful surroundings . .
going from the crazed hyper city to a sun speckled barn, with no worldly cares for the moment, is surely a transformative, powerful, maybe fleeting, but still . . zen state of mind.
but you don’t really need to know the specific background story – to pick up on the isolation, and wonder . . the focused, slowly realized energy forces that . . ‘flow’ through the the work.
the work has its voice, irregardless of what you know about Ben, or not.
but it was still very interesting to read, and all info . . is good.
but, talking about barns, and the countryside,
made me suddenly think about . . old quilts and rural quilt patterns, and I realized, maybe that’s why I can relate to these shapes – so much !!

yep, there was something, definitely .. . very quilt-like in this one !!
those early quilters even used to cut out their ‘template’ pattern pieces from common household brown paper – just like this, too.
and sometimes you can even see the pencil lines, traced on the material, some slips of the hand . . peeping out in the ‘geometry’ . . just like happens here, too.

talking about quilts, and zen-like paintings, and all things dear to my heart, including the recently departed ones, DAN ASHER and SIMON CERIGO . .

and Dan ?
DAN ASHER was like an uncle, to my kids. their very eccentric uncle !!
sushi dinners . . with booster seats – here we come !!
and believe it, they have lots of their own stories about Dan.
in fact, I hear an artists’ kid named Theo could pick up a small fortune in coins . . right off the floor, just by shifting a few books, and such . . when visiting Dan’s notoriously ‘squalid’ apt on 10th St – right across the street from the Russian baths, and nobody would know the difference, least of all, Dan.
Dan wasn’t always broke, he just always spent the money, and fast. til he did get good and broke !!
that’s Theo, looking a bit like his dad, Simon. in the face. the smile.
I hear it was: first, Dan’s – and then . . TOYS R US !!
and Simon would be like, Theo . . where’d you get all that money ?!!
he’s in finance now, something about bank derivatives and hedge funds so . . go figure, guess he liked rolling with . . lots of coins.