The Infinite by Gloria Andrada

Adentrarse en el infinito es posible, aunque para ellohemos de atrevernos a desarrollar unas habilidades especiales. Ben Noam, en The Infinite, nos tiende la mano y nos ofrece algunas pistas sobre cómohacerlo. Con sus memory maps nos invita a convertirnos en espectadoresactivos dispuestos a transitar el infinito que habita CDMX o Los Angeles, y asíperdernos y encontrarnos múltiples veces, una y otra vez, sin principio ni fin.

El primer paso es habitar el propio cuerpo. Noam crea sus memorymaps como resultado de un proceso de búsqueda que culmina en el reencuentrocon sus manos como la herramienta central de su práctica artística. Con ellasda forma y moldea los jarrones de cerámica que lesirven de soporte perfecto para los mapas que dibuja sobre ellos. Cada jarrónes un mapa emocional donde Noam comparte con nosotros los lugares que habitansu memoria y que conforman de una forma u otra lo que él es. The Infinite es un viaje interno y externo, un viaje a Malibú o a Joshua Tree, o un viaje a los recuerdos infinitos. 

El segundo es estar dispuesto a participar en una actividadíntimamente humana. No sólo porque localizarse en un territorio es unacondición necesaria para sentirse a salvo, sino también porque los memorymaps, a diferencia de los GPS contemporáneos, reflejan la experiencia dealguien que habitó y transitó esos lugares, y permiten al observador conocerlosdesde un punto de vista completamente subjetivo. Noam,además, refleja y reivindica la subjetividada través de las formas curvas y asimétricasde sus jarrones, así como mediante la expresividad de sus dibujos íntimos,fuertes, inestables, vulnerables, vivos.

Por último, debemos cuestionar los límites entre nuestramente y los objetos que nos rodean. Los memory maps nos muestran que elmundo es nuestra memoria externa, y que en este viaje al infinito quién y qué nos acompañaes determinante. No es lo mismo explorar el entorno visualmente que con GoogleMaps: en el primero caso, creamos nuestros puntos de referencia, nuestrasanclas emocionales; en el segundo, la mayoría de las veces, nos convertimos enmeros receptores de instrucciones, y así nos alejamos del entorno y de lapropia experiencia. The Infinite nos recuerda que cómo nos movemos estambién qué vamos arecordar y, por tanto, quiénessomos y seremos.

 “¿Y si no hubiera jerarquías, solo búsqueda de caminos? ¿Recuerdas navegar antes de Google? ¿Recuerdas Los Ángelesantes de Uber?”— nos pregunta Noam. Contemplando sus memory mapslogramos recordarlo como si fuésemos protagonistas de las historias que narran.Y es precisamente en ese acto de imaginación cuando comenzamos a habitar lasmemorias infinitas, y emprendemos un viaje que no tiene ni comienzo ni final,un viaje donde da igual desorientarse o ubicarse, donde no hay un lugar claroal que llegar. Un viaje de (auto)conocimiento.

- Gloria Andrada

Leap Year (Frieze) by Jen Pjieko

As 2017 drew to a close, leaving many of us reeling in perpetual anxiety while consuming endless images as simultaneous symptom and remedy, familiar tropes and traditions beckoned. For ‘Leap Year,’ the Los Angeles artist presents an installation of 40 vertically-orientated charcoal drawings on cardboard. Working in traditional, humble materials, however, does not dictate the subject matter held within the identical wooden frames: touching, dusky portraits of the artist’s grandmother, reading a newspaper in her knotted hands; his grandfather, sporting a boldly patterned shirt and savouring a cigar in one hand and glass of wine in the other; the now notorious Weinstein Company’s graphic; illustrations of various ‘heel concepts’; cubist portraits of friends, his gallerist, and fellow artists sitting around the dinner table well into the night; Nowruz celebrations in the Pacific Palisades, and various nude figures in repose. These layered, diaristic sketches are less cause of tension and sensory overload than notes on the details we may have missed in our rush to close out the year.

- Jen Pjieko

Portraits by Makis Malafekas

“It seems a crime to go to bed early in Greece...”
Lawrence Durrell, The Greek Islands

So Ben is already up, right there on the veranda at 10 a.m. with his big black sketchbook and his fat pencils and all, and the others are still sleeping because there was some party until the early morning, and Ben was there too, of course he was, almost on that same spot drawing portraits in the half-light, and now there he is again trying to decide whether that thing in the sea, off the coast between Kimolos and Milos, is a sphinx-looking rock or a rock-looking sphinx. Either way, it's uncharted territory. He will therefore deal with it invariably through his very own unprocessed graphic style, sometimes raw, sometimes smooth, and always totally free from preconceived notions of narrative duty, historicity and such other horrors.

Same thing a couple of weeks earlier, somewhere in the port of Hydra, near the hotel with the palm trees and the artsy people, and one summer later in Athens confronting the urban landscapes of splendor and decay, and drawing, constantly, relentlessly, indoors, outdoors, portraits of friends in houses and of statues in archaeological museums, treating every subject equally, giving it the same share of soul, be it an acquaintance blown down by the Greek heatwave or a bronze effigy hit in the face by the heavy punch of History.

The drawings of Ben Wolf Noam constitute quite a diary. One could say a literary one. The spectator is invited to read about the discovery of very particular and expressive people in the same time (and temporality) as the young artist does, through many consecutive summers during which his style evolves, opens up, gets accustomed to the localness of things on the one hand, and of their permanent transgression on the other

- Makis Malafekas

Field of Ares by The Breeder

Ben Wolf Noam makes paintings and installations that draw together the natural and the digital, by projecting the forms of localfoliage onto the two dimensional space of the canvas. The surface of his painting is further flattened through the use of processes that recreate gradients and masking. The paintings reflect the outcome of a decade of research into processes that reinterpret digital image-making techniques within analog media, translating the tools of Photoshop—gradient fills, stamps, and alpha layers—into forms of painting. 

By using plant foliage, Wolf Noam physically engages with the specific locations in which he works—social and physical spaces, climate, and geography— and embeds a local imprint onto his work, using the foliage like he would a brush or a piece of charcoal.Through the foraging process he explores the local environment and the ways in which nature serves as a unique backdrop to the social life of a city. The process originated when Wolf Noam pulled down the ivy climbing the walls of his Bushwick studio and has served as a motif that carries throughout successive bodies of work, while evolving to reflect the locality of the paintings’ production. Recent paintings from Los Angeles use plants from the banks of the LA River to engage with the contemporary meaning of this notorious and troubled river, its ebbs and flows as California faces the worst drought in its history. 

For Field of Ares, Wolf Noam presents new paintings that extend these methods to reckon with the current moment in Greece, as Athens braced itself for economic turmoil while demonstrating patience and unity in the streets. Under threat from European economic leadership, Wolf Noam was struck by the persistence of dignity and openness within Greek society. The Field of Ares park — one of Athens’ largest public spaces — embodied these contradictions. A large and popular park dedicated to Greek independence, it celebrates national heroes even as it houses people dispossessed by the recent crisis. By drawing the materials of this park into his work, Wolf Noam engages with this specific site while simultaneously using its vestiges to create a new type of engagement with the space. In line with his collaborative practice Ben Wolf Noam has invited performance artist, rapper, poet and activist Michael David Quattlebum Jr (Mykki Blanco) to breathe life into the space with a site specific performance.

- The Breeder

The Frame (NPR) by James Kim

As the sun sets over Elysian Park, Ben Wolf Noam is hard at work, lugging his wheelbarrow and collecting fallen leaves, tree bark and twigs. "Even though it looks like we're just collecting tree bark," Noam says, "eventually this will become a painting." "Now my process is obviously a lot more involved than just collecting beachwood, but it's the same kind of route." Noam says. In one installation, for example, Noam made a 12-panel painting on canvas stretched over a geodesic dome, with each panel representing a month
in a year.

- James Kim

Artforum by Travis Diehl

You know things are bad when a young painter like Ben Wolf Noam, used to winding patterns and cheerful gradients, turns to the sooty textures of charcoal on cardboard. Call it the new Neue Sachlichkeit—a certain polemical caricaturizing that, like a market crash or the flu, tends to come back around. The opulent desperation Noam depicts across forty panels, hung two rows high, presents the last thirteen months of the American experience as a wide-angled, roughly cubist mania. Here, contorted figures dance, upside down, above a Mesoamerican pyramid, serpent gods, and a slapdash glass-and-steel skyline (Lets Fukin Party, 2017); there, the little Monopoly man grins beside a gravestone marked “TECH BROS” (Cult of the Entrepreneur, 2017). Elsewhere, bees die, cities gentrify; memes blur into porn; a knife draws blood from a woman’s pregnant belly.

Several portraits provide calmer, more personal passages. The cigar-toking Grandpa Wolf, 2018, gazes frame left out of a startling geometric shirt; Grandma Lotte, 2017, grips a blank area of the drawing’s composition. But the medium’s powdery nostalgia keeps lurching back to topical twenty-seventeen—another portrait, a flattened nude called Woman Reading (Ferrante), 2017, nods to current debates over an author’s right to privacy, while A Weinstein Picture, 2017, sends the disgraced producer’s company logo into a boxy void.

The show is titled “Leap Year.” 2018 isn’t one, but it does happen to be the centennial of the Weimar Republic’s founding—and here again is an internecine aesthetic wherein the artist, roughly condemning the age, takes pleasure in his own pastiche. Neue Sachlichkeit? Gesundheit.

— Travis Diehl