it flows through and all around you
June 13 – July 16, 2019
Opening reception: June 13, 5-8 pm
Ever Gold [Projects] is pleased to present it flows through and all around you, a solo exhibition of new paintings by Oakland-based artist Drew Bennett. It flows through and all around you is Bennett’s first solo exhibition with the gallery and celebrates one of the artist’s core interests: the relationships between humans and nature, water, and each other. Bennett sees engagement with painting as similar to communion with nature in that they are both efforts towards heightened presence, and his new paintings can be seen as layered explorations of this idea. In the paintings, figures are integrated into the landscape at a scale and in a manner that suggests less distinction between the landscape and its occupants than many landscape paintings do; these figures are woven into the scenery, rather than observing it from a distance or being overcome by its vastness. The paintings on view for it flows through and all around you show figures engulfed in known and unknown planes of space that fluctuate between actual and reflected, solid state and fluid, natural and spiritual.
Bennett is interested in how we can encourage these images of embeddedness with nature to not feel pastoral or extracurricular but fundamental to a healthy and connected existence. Nudity serves a related purpose in the work—physical nudity in the paintings is a visual representation of psychic nudity, and the two work hand in hand to produce each other. Bennett’s depictions of the nude body are desexualized and relate to this overarching idea of re-naturalizing the most natural of experiences. He leaves some figures clothed as that is the natural state of comfort for most people today but is quick to lead by example that being comfortable fully nude is valuable and worth practicing early and often. It has unfortunately become a privilege to have the means and access to commune with nature, and to have the frame of reference to attempt this kind of connection; these scenes point to the intrinsic need for nature’s accessibility and the transformative potential it holds despite obstacles and distractions.
Bennett is not suggesting a return to anything as much as a realignment, a reassessment of how we might enjoy and benefit from a relationship with nature through creating active feedback with the natural world and its resources. Furthermore, he suggests that his scenes could be misread as optimistic in an antiquated way. This imagery and even the format of painting can be argued to appear not particularly timely or political but Bennett suggests an opposite possibility—how is it not at least timely to show that these basic and vital feelings and experiences are largely absent from our lives?
This is not just a pictorial investigation—Bennett’s body of work around the intersection of water, nature, and human experience extends to outdoor showers, saunas, and composting toilets in the natural environment. This part of his practice extended into the exhibition context in 2014 at BAMPFA where Bennett installed a pair of outdoor showers in the courtyard of the museum, open to the public as part of The Possible, organized by David Wilson. His study of ways to mechanically harness natural forces overlaps with his interest in architecture, and he has designed and built infrastructure supporting both temporary and long-term dwelling in nature. Whether structures for weekend-long group events or modest cabins for seasonal living, these projects express Bennett’s core motivations to promote communion with nature. These skills lend themselves to this show in that the artist spent the fall building a new studio as a means to produce these works. The studio is nestled under the deck of his home in the Oakland Hills (designed and lived in by Case Study architect Beverly Thorne), overlooking the bay and butted up against Redwood Regional Park, where Bennett can be at home with nature and still be an active member of the Bay Area community.
Inky Goodness: Facebook AIR Creative Director Drew Bennett
euronews: Meet Drew Bennett, founder of Facebook’s Artist In Residence Program
SF Weekly: Facebook Artists in Residence Gets Analog with ‘Group Hang’
Refinery29: At Facebook, Art Becomes A Metaphor For What The Company Wants To Achieve
Artsy: What It’s Like to Be an Artist in Residence at Facebook
Mercury News: Facebook campus becomes artist’s canvas: Tech firms hire creative minds to inspire workforce
Drew Bennett (b. 1981, Chicago, IL) is an Oakland-based artist, designer/builder, curator, and creative director. Bennett graduated from Colorado College in 2004 (BA, Fine Arts). Bennett moved to San Francisco in 2005 where he exhibited painting, installation and social practice work as well as developed his own business as a designer and builder. In 2012, Bennett founded FB AIR, Facebook’s artist in residency program. Between 2012 and 2018, Bennett grew the program from a headquarters-based residency experience to an international site-specific installation program commissioning hundreds of new works annually. Initially featuring friends like David Wilson, Jay Nelson, Lucky Dragons, and Serena Mitnick-Miller, Bennett would eventually work with some of his early heroes, including Katharina Grosse, Barry McGee, Alicia McCarthy, and Tom Sachs. In 2015, Bennett co-founded Starline Social Club (Oakland) with Adam Hatch and Sam White. Starline operates as a bar, restaurant, and venue that facilitates artists, musicians, activists, and community based entrepreneurs in the exhibition of music, performance, literary, social, culinary, and visual media. Now resigned from his role at Facebook, he is dedicated to his art, family, and Starline.