Jun 6 2011

Benjamin Benus – Art Talk – 39th Street Gallery

Thursday, June 9, 7:00-9:00 pm

“The New Face of the World”
A History of the Modern Pictogram in Avant-garde Art and Design

Free to the public.

Art Historian Benjamin Benus - Talk at the 39th Street GalleryWe are all familiar with the modern pictograms used in public information signs, which began to appear in airports and other public spaces in the early 1970s. We are less familiar with their prehistory, which can be traced back to Central Europe in the years between the World Wars. The pictograms developed in this earlier period were conceived as part of a radical educational project that used visual means to communicate socially relevant facts to mass audiences.

Art Historian Benjamin Benus will discuss the artists and activists who collaborated on this project in the late 1920s, and who first developed the prototypes for today’s modern pictograms in their paintings, prints, and graphic design work. This talk will also consider how several contemporary artists, inspired by this earlier history, have transformed today’s pictograms and international signs into vehicles of social critique.

39th Street Gallery and Project Space
entrance on 39th Street

at the Gateway Arts Center @ Brentwood
3901 Rhode Island Ave
Brentwood MD 20722


Nov 2 2010

Opening Reception + Free Movie Night: Thu Nov 4

All Mixed Up:
A Juried Exhibition of Mixed Media Work

Opening Reception: Thursday, November 4 — 6:00-9:00 pm
Exhibition continues through  November 27

All Mixed UpHosted at the Brentwood Arts Exchange for the first time, the 2010 Prince George’s County Annual Juried Exhibition, All Mixed Up, is a prominent showcase for artists living, working, and studying in Prince George’s County.  Juried by Philippa Hughes, perhaps the Washington area’s most energetic art advocate and collector, this year’s exhibition features Melissa Burley, Nancy Donnelly, Angelina Hein, Tom Hill, Katie Dell Kaufman, Judith Kornett, Allen Linder, Megan Mueller, John Paradiso, Tim Tate, Erwin Timmers, Linda Lee Uphoff and Steven Williams.

“Dynamic, layered, textured and a little weird.”  The juror uses these words describe herself as much as the works in All Mixed Up.  The words also come together as a surprisingly succinct way to sum up the Zeitgeist of contemporary art.  The title “All Mixed Up” proceeds to take on its own layers of meaning.  As it traverses from installation to abstraction, provocation to beauty, the show strikes a chord at the heart of what makes contemporary art so exciting.

Brentwood Arts Exchange
1st floor, main entrance


… Also …

Movie Night at the 39th Street Gallery

Thursday, November 4 — 7:00-9:00 pm
A new film every First Thursday of the Month
A free event. Refreshments provided.

Elizabeth Gilbert on nurturing creativity

Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, muses on the impossible things we expect from artists and geniuses – and shares the radical idea that, instead of the rare person “being” a genius, all of us “have” a genius.  It’s a funny, personal and surprisingly moving talk.

This 20 minute talk will be shown every half hour from 7:00 – 9:00 pm during the Brentwood Arts Exchange All Mixed Up opening reception.  Come upstairs and get inspired!

39th Street Gallery and Project Space
2nd floor, entrance on 39th Street


Gateway Arts Center @ Brentwood
3901 Rhode Island Ave
Brentwood MD 20722

Aug 30 2010

Movie Night at the GAC@B

Thursday, September 2 — 7:00-9:00 pm

Gateway Arts Center @ Brentwood
3901 Rhode Island Ave
Brentwood MD 20722
A new film every First Thursday of the Month
A free event.  Refreshments provided.

Beautiful LosersBEAUTIFUL LOSERS celebrates the spirit behind one of the most influential cultural moments of a generation.  In the early 1990s a loose-knit group of like-minded outsiders found common ground at a little NYC storefront gallery.  Rooted in the DIY (do-it-yourself) subcultures of skateboarding, surf, punk, hip hop & graffiti, they made art that reflected the lifestyles they led.  Developing their craft with almost no influence from the “establishment” art world, this group and the subcultures they sprang from have now become a movement that has been transforming pop culture.

Starring a selection of artists who are considered leaders within this culture, Beautiful Losers focuses on the telling of personal stories.  It speaks to themes of what happens when the outside becomes “in” as it explores the creative ethos connecting these artists and today’s youth.


  • Ed Templeton
  • Mike Mills
  • Stephen Powers
  • Geoff McFetridge
  • Shepard Fairey
  • Harmony Korine
  • Barry McGee
  • Margaret Kilgallen


(90 minutes, not rated)

Beautiful Losers Awards

Jul 9 2010

Artomatic ’08 [Re]Installation

Some time ago — much to my surprise, and after she had only seen an online photo of it — my sister Lois told me that she’d like to have my Artomatic 2008 installation for a new house she was decorating.

Artomatic '08 Installation

Artomatic 2008 - "But How Will it Look in My Living Room"

She and her husband have a number of my earlier, more realistic paintings in their home but they didn’t have any of my, well, let’s call them less-mainstream, somewhat abstract figurative paintings.  And this Artomatic piece was meant to be more conceptual than decorative.  It’s also eight feet high and twelve feet wide — not the sort of thing one might hang over the fireplace.

I kept describing it to her on several occasions to be sure she knew what it was, and she kept telling me that she really did want it.  Once I was convinced, and being thrilled at the prospect of having it on a wall where it would be seen rather than rolled up and collecting dust, I had to figure out how to install it.

The work consists of three pieces of canvas — a 4″ high strip at the top, the main 78″ high canvas in the middle, and the 14″ high label at the bottom — each 12 feet wide, and a framed 30″x48″ painting mounted facing the wall in the middle.  At Artomatic it was installed on a temporary wall made up of three 4’x8′ sheets of plywood, so I basically stapled the canvas pieces to the plywood and used screws to mount the center painting.

At the new house it would be on a typical wood-framed drywalled wall.  In order to do as little “damage” as possible I thought I should try to re-stretch the canvas pieces and attach everything together into a self-supporting work that could be hung on hooks or brackets, making it relatively easy to remove or relocate in the future.  I had in mind to do as much of the construction as possible in my studio, but I also needed to be able to get everything into my car for the 3-hour drive to the location of the house.

I temporarily hung the components on the wall of my studio to take some measurements, and then started working out the details.

Plans - page 1

Plans - Page 2

Plans - Page 3

In the initial plans each piece of canvas would be stretched over several rectangular wood frames that would be connected together with metal brackets.  All the boards would be cut, shaped, sanded and partially attached in my studio, and still fit in the car.  The final assembly of the frames would be on-site, the canvasses stretched, the small painting attached, and everything hung on the wall.

The engineering problem was to make the framework thin enough to hang on a wall but strong enough to remain flat when the canvas pieces were stretched over them.  The practical problem was finding really straight boards so the whole thing would be flat when assembled.  I spent a lot of time considering both of these issues but I couldn’t quite get a whole plan that would work.  Eventually, since there was still construction going on at the site I decided to do all of the construction there.  I could buy the lumber near the house which meant I could use 12-foot boards, make full-size frames, and eliminate a lot of complexity.

The problem of finding straight lumber remained.  The “high quality” lumber I found was still pretty crooked in 12-foot lengths.  I also discovered that the wall where the installation would be, which appeared to be well built, was crookeder than it looked.  Unless all the bends lined up it was going to be difficult to hang a less-than-flat artwork on a somewhat wavy wall.

Fortunately, when I was at the house with Lois trying to figure out a new plan I had a long phone call with our clever brother, Jim.  He had planned to be visiting and I had planned on getting his help working on the problems but due to an injury he couldn’t be there.  It took a while to explain to him what I was trying to do without the visuals.  Eventually he suggested that I build all the framework directly on the wall and not worry about making it easy to move — it would make more holes in the drywall but they could still be patched, and the whole wall would have to be repainted in any case.  Doh!  [Sound of me slapping my forehead as I wondered why I didn’t think of that!]

So I built the whole thing on the wall.  Here’s the photo-story of the actual installation which occurred in June, 2010, at the Villa Bella in Penn Laird, Virginia.

The rear terrace of the Villa Bella.

The rear terrace of the Villa Bella.

Installation Location

The wall in the background is the installation location. The components of my Artomatic 2008 piece are behind the chair.

Layout points

First, I marked layout points on the wall in pencil and tape.

Painting by Trinka Simon

The painting on the far wall is a National Gallery "copy" by Trinka Simon.

2x4 supports

Most of the 2x4 supports were added to the wall.

Main canvas

The main canvas was stapled to the framework and a 2x4 with the narrow top canvas was added.

Lower canvas

The lower canvas was partially stapled to another 2x4.

Lower canvas anchored

With tape holding the lower canvas up out of the way the 2x4 could be anchored to the wall.

Lower canvas stapled

The lower canvas was stapled to the remainder of the lower framework.

"Backward" painting attached

The "backward" painting was attached through the main canvas to the underlying framework.

Trinka Simon's Artomatic 2002 Painting

Just a few steps away from my installation is Trinka Simon's Artomatic 2002 painting.

Here are several views of the completed installation of my Artomatic 2008 piece “But How Will it Look in My Living Room” at the Villa Bella.

Completed Installation

Completed Installation

Completed Installation

It was a harder than I expected to get this done — took me a week and a half.  Now that I’ve had time to think about it I wonder if I should have just put up plywood over the drywall.  Maybe next time.  🙂

Larger versions of these photos are here at Flickr.

To see many more photos of the Villa Bella click here (Flickr).