Marc Selwyn Fine Art

Ben Durham: Text Portraits

Ben Durham: Text Portraits

Saturday, January 15, 2011Saturday, February 12, 2011


Los Angeles, CA USA

Opening Reception: Saturday, January 15th, 6:00 - 8:00 p.m.

Nicole Klagsbrun Gallery and Marc Selwyn Fine Art are pleased to present Ben Durham Text Portraits, the artist’s first solo exhibition in New York and Los Angeles. The exhibition will be on view simultaneously at the galleries, January through February, 2011.

The subjects of Durham’s portraits are friends, classmates and acquaintances from his childhood in Lexington, Kentucky. In a ritualistic daily process, the artist combs the Lexington police reports for familiar names and faces, collecting their mug shots and arrest records. Ranging from petty theft to violent crime, these records represent the climax of a troubled past.

The exhibitions feature three series, Text Portraits, Map Diptychs and Map Composites. Drawn on thick handmade paper, the Text Portraits are comprised of Durham’s memories of the subject, resulting in an eerily accurate picture composed entirely of text, according to the artist “a process of storytelling that is written into the piece itself.” Durham’s writing is densely layered at times, wearing away the paper’s surface to depict shadows, hair and eyes, while light cheeks and shoulders remain legible. In the Map Diptychs, the streets where the person has lived are outlined in pinched and raised paper pulp, creating a topographic skeleton repeated over either side. Over one half of the diptychs another iteration of text portrait is drawn, while on the other side this sculpted map is dyed blue, “like a tattoo or a vein… a diagram of a life marked on the skin.” For the Map Composites, dyed paper is sliced along the street grids of specific neighborhoods relating to each subject. These pieces are re-configured and arranged to form a silhouette of the subject’s mug shot, creating “new combined streets and territories… a personal topography built of many maps.”

Extremely tactile and obsessively worked, Durham’s mark-making is a thorough and meditative exercise. Tracing his subjects’ footsteps while grasping at passing recollections, Durham’s investigative process is an attempt to reconstruct history through personal memory. Unarchiving narrative through the physical act of drawing, Durham reveals a more complete portrait, a complex history built from fact and reflection.

Ben Durham lives and works in Midway, KY. He received a B.F.A. in Painting at Washington University in St. Louis. Durham’s work has been included in exhibitions at Country Club, Cincinnati, OH, the 21C Museum, Louisville, KY. His work is in several private and public collections, including the Whitney Museum of American Art.