Erik Benjamins et al., For Modern Resting
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Erik Benjamins et al.
For Modern Resting
January 16 – February 21 2021

‘Foot Massages’

Marta is overjoyed to host Erik Benjamins’ “For Modern Resting,” an exhibition self-reflexively organized by, and presenting the work of, the Los Angeles-based artist and various collaborators.

Inspired by the joy, sensibility, and humanism of mid-20th-century designer Alexander Girard, “For Modern Resting” carries forward the idea that rest is an inherently vital act. Artist Erik Benjamins, in conversation and collaboration with Shannon Finnegan¹ (New York), Lauren Godfrey² (London), and Norma³ (Los Angeles), has created an inviting and thoughtful environment that welcomes viewers to contemplate how sensory engagement and slowness manifest in daily life.

“For Modern Resting” presents new artworks that converse with the forms of design, the rhythms of domestic space, and the performative potential of writing. Seat cushions feature embroidered text that beckon one to sit; an oversized shoe rack invites visitors to remove their shoes; a pair of wall clocks allude to the limits and possibilities of transatlantic collaboration under quarantine; wall text rendered in airbrushed acrylic presents transcriptions of collected representations of the Sun. These works orbit and contextualize the show’s centerpiece: a modular constellation of sculptural doormats made of hand-pressed tiles that mimic the form and effect of reflexology walking paths.

The exhibition’s namesake references “For Modern Living,” curated by Alexander Girard at the Detroit Institute of Arts in 1949. This immersive show featured a global cohort of designers that embraced then-modern materials to reimagine objects for the home. “For Modern Resting” takes inspiration from this historic exhibition as an extension of a uniquely Girardian spirit, which emphasizes a distinct kind of moving and making under the influence of optimism, curiosity, and empathy.

Erik Benjamins (b. 1986) is a ‘disciplinarily unfaithful’ artist and writer. Recent projects have brought him to Chengdu, China; the Banff Centre, Canada; Spring Workshop, Hong Kong; the Jan Van Eyck Academie in the Netherlands; and the Santa Fe Art Institute, New Mexico.

Download the Press Release.
Download a list of Available Works.

¹ Shannon Finnegan is an interdisciplinary artist. Some of their recent work includes Anti-Stairs Club Lounge, an ongoing project that gathers people together who share an aversion to stairs; Alt-Text as Poetry, a collaboration with Bojana Coklyat that explores the expressive potential of alt-text; and Do You Want Us Here or Not, a series of benches designed for exhibition spaces. They have done projects with Banff Centre, the High Line, the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver, Tallinn Art Hall, and Nook Gallery. Their work has been supported by a 2018 Wynn Newhouse Award, a 2019 residency at Eyebeam, a 2020 residency at Surf Point Foundation, and a 2020 grant from Art Matters Foundation. They live and work in Brooklyn, NY.

² Lauren Godfrey is an artist based in London. Her work invites interaction and collaboration, often swerving close to furniture or the quasi-useful. In recent work, fountains and sundials-elemental clichés-meet post-modern silhouettes and pattern overload. Recent exhibitions and collaborations include Pattern Portraits (Kings Cross) at Coal Drops Yard, London; Group Hat solo show, De La Warr Pavilion; Hidden Harlequin with Lauren Coullard at Centre For Recent Drawing, London; Doing Easy, Outpost Projects, Joshua Tree; a swimwear display for Karen Mabon at Les Filles in Lisbon and a jewelry display for SVP at House Of Voltaire, London. Recent residencies include Villa Lena, Tuscany, 2019; Triangle, New York, 2016; and Kingsgate Workshops, London, 2015.

³ Norma is a studio for objects, moveables, and spaces. From its base in Los Angeles, the studio pursues research, fabrication, product, furniture, and interiors projects rooted in explorations of form and material. Norma seeks out commissions from and collaborations with patrons and peers both local and international, with the consistent goal of creating narrative-based outputs founded in generosity, candor, and delight.

Exhibition view, North wall.

Exhibition view, East wall.

‘A queue of ceramics waiting for their post-glaze footbath.’

Reflexology Doormats, 1 × 4 configuration.

Reflexology Doormats

Benjamins’ doormat sculptures are made of hand-pressed tiles intended to mimic the effect of reflexology walking paths. Common, but not exclusive, to cities throughout Asia, these walking paths are often found in public park space, in which the ground is made of rounded stones half-set into concrete. Exercisers are encouraged to remove their shoes and make ambulatory circuits in and on these areas. Utilizing the tenets of reflexology, these paths encourage physical and mental wellness as intensely activated by the many pressure points found on the base of the feet (the placement and sizing of the stone forms on these particular tiles are rated at the level of ‘Beginner‘).

Each Reflexology Doormat includes a short story-poem that walks around its exterior in four parts. When writing these, Benjamins imagined the doormats themselves, and their accompanying texts, as ‘islands of rest’—anecdotal visualizations of a slow calmness. Installed as a group, the lines of each tray’s text are occasionally obscured, and at other times connect with adjacent trays’ texts to create new, poetic text-based meditations.

Erik Benjamins
Reflexology Doormat
(The Lithuanian chocolatier...)
2020
First Edition of Nine
Ceramic, Steel, Wood, Mortar, Grout, Rubber
30.0 W × 18.0 D × 2.5 H in.

Available

Erik Benjamins
Reflexology Doormat
(Tea of Linden Flowers...)
2020
First Edition of Nine
Ceramic, Steel, Wood, Mortar, Grout, Rubber
30.0 W × 18.0 D × 2.5 H in.

Available

Erik Benjamins
Reflexology Doormat
(Oversized armchairs...)
2020
First Edition of Nine
Ceramic, Steel, Wood, Mortar, Grout, Rubber
30.0 W × 18.0 D × 2.5 H in.

Available

Plaster production mold.

Erik Benjamins
Reflexology Doormat
(A queue of ceramics...)
2020
First Edition of Nine
Ceramic, Steel, Wood, Mortar, Grout, Rubber
30.0 W × 18.0 D × 2.5 H in.

Available

Erik Benjamins
Reflexology Doormat
(A melon-sized boulder...)
2020
First Edition of Nine
Ceramic, Steel, Wood, Mortar, Grout, Rubber
30.0 W × 18.0 D × 2.5 H in.

Available

Erik Benjamins
Reflexology Doormat
(Bowl of nectarines...)
2020
First Edition of Nine
Ceramic, Steel, Wood, Mortar, Grout, Rubber
30.0 W × 18.0 D × 2.5 H in.

Available

‘Bowl of nectarines from the farmer in Fresno; when cut into wedges, glisten like wet gemstones.’

Initial hand-built Reflexology Tile prototypes, 2016.

Erik Benjamins
Reflexology Doormat
(The day’s last rays...)
2020
First Edition of Nine
Ceramic, Steel, Wood, Mortar, Grout, Rubber
30.0 W × 18.0 D × 2.5 H in.

Available

Erik Benjamins
Reflexology Doormat
(Javanese landscape memento...)
2020
First Edition of Nine
Ceramic, Steel, Wood, Mortar, Grout, Rubber
30.0 W × 18.0 D × 2.5 H in.

Available

Erik Benjamins
Reflexology Doormat
(Prized collection of stones...)
2020
First Edition of Nine
Ceramic, Steel, Wood, Mortar, Grout, Rubber
30.0 W × 18.0 D × 2.5 H in.

Available

Exhibition view, West and North walls.

Installation view, North wall.

Installation detail, Irvine exhibition.

Amici di Penna Alla Finestra

A dual-time-zone wall clock made of selectively sun-tanned leather. A collaboration between Los Angeles-based Benjamins and London-based Lauren Godfrey, the pair sought to create a functional timekeeper that reflected on the limits and possibilities of trans-Atlantic friendship and collaboration. In sketching out ideas, they both realized their deep fondness for ‘I Morosi alla Finestra’ (Lovers at the Window), a textile designed by Italian modernist Gio Ponti in 1930. The window’d figures in Ponti’s pattern-repeat felt particularly apt during a time of shelter-in-place quarantine.

Erik Benjamins and Lauren Godfrey
Amici di Penna alla Finestra
2020
Open Edition
Veg-tan Leather, Wood, Clock Movements
7.5 W × 4.5 D × 2.0 H in. each (2 pieces)

Available

Exhibition view, North and East walls.

Let the Sun In

Inspired by Alexander Girard’s lifelong passion as a collector, Benjamins began collecting representations of the sun in late-2019. The suns—photographed, drawn, carved, painted, projected, etc.—are collected without hierarchical value towards provenance or material (a sun used to promote a moving truck company in Southern California is as important as a gilded architectural ornament atop a stone tower in a Venetian palazzo).

For the exhibition, Benjamins transcribed seven suns from this collection of ephemera, painting them directly onto the gallery walls in a lush gradient of airbrushed acrylic paint reminiscent of a sunrise or sunset. The typeface used is a redrawn (respectfully bootlegged) version of ‘Alphabet,’ designed by Alexander Girard in the 1960s for textiles produced by Herman Miller.

These suns are a concerted effort to explore what it means to think, move, and make under the influence of what Benjamins calls ‘a Girardian spirit’. This channeling is less about riffing on Girard’s aesthetic, but instead thinking about how curiosity, optimism, empathy and a deep love of place can fuel one’s creative practice and output. “It was a cherry on top of the sundae that the font used was part of a Girard design called ‘Alphabet’ … I love the poetic gesture of using this alphabet in a rather utilitarian way, to spell out and give form to these sun transcriptions."

Erik Benjamins
Let the Sun In [IFAC Variations 1 – 7]
2020
Edition of Five Each
Site-Specific Airbrushed Acrylic
1.5 H × 25.75 – 34.0 W in.

Available

Erik Benjamins
Let the Sun In [Marta Variations 1 – 6]
2021
Edition of Five Each
Site-Specific Airbrushed Acrylic
1.5 H × 24.5 – 59.5 W in.

Available

Installation view, West wall and South window.

Installation detail, West wall.

Stay Awhile

For several years, artist Shannon Finnegan has introduced inviting, declarative text drawings on seating interventions within museum and gallery spaces. These functional artworks utilize text to highlight what is often a lack of comfortable or available seating for visiting bodies, i.e. a bench with the words ‘This exhibition has asked me to stand for too long. Sit if you agree.’

Here, Benjamins and Finnegan have collaborated to create a series of delicately-rendered, embroidered seat cushions that display one of Shannon’s recent text drawings. For the exhibition’s initial showing at the Irvine Fine Arts Center, the cushions rested on simple pine furniture built by Benjamins and designed by Italian designer Enzo Mari; these pieces belong to his globally-renowned ‘Autoprogettazione’ series of furniture created in the 1970s, which sought to empower the consumer by offering easy-to-build, reasonably-priced design objects. At Marta, cushion pairs rest on built-in bench seating framed by the gallery’s storefront window facade.

Erik Benjamins and Shannon Finnegan
Stay Awhile
2020
Edition of 5
Embroidered Cotton, Foam Insert
Each 18.5 W × 18.5 D × 1 H in.

Available

Installation detail, Irvine Fine Arts Center.

Installation view, Irvine Fine Arts Center.

Installation view, Irvine Fine Arts Center.

Shoe Rack

To accommodate visitors taking off their shoes in order to walk upon the Reflexology Doormats, Benjamins invited Los Angeles-based studio Norma to create a shoe rack. Their monumental, solid cedar form includes a space for one to sit comfortably as they take on and off their shoes, while a metal inset tray allows for easy shoe-placement and subsequent cleaning maintenance.

Norma
14 – Shoe Rack
2020
Open Edition
Cedar, Powder-coated Steel
48.0 W × 15.0 D × 15.0 H in.

Available

Installation detail, Irvine Fine Arts Center.

“For Modern Resting,” installation view.

From IFAC to Marta
‘For Modern Resting’ was originally realized for the Irvine Fine Arts Center in Irvine, California. The exhibition, facing numerous postponements as well as an early closure due to Covid-19, ran from October 16 – December 11, 2020. As part of public programming, IFAC curator Virginia Arce conducted a Virtual Artist Talk with Benjamins.

Photography
By the artist, unless otherwise noted.

Production
Tile Production Molds — Laguna Clay
Doormat Steel Trays — Advanced Metal Solutions
Vinyl — Leafcutter Studio, Inc.
Seat Cushion Embroidery — Platinum Stitches, LLC
Seat Cushion Construction — Del Rey Upholstery
Leather Laser-Cutting — 2ndwnd

The artist would like to thank Adam Silverman, Alex Reed, Ben Sanders, Benjamin Critton, Bob Dornberger, Cal Tile Center, Carlos Osorio, Daniella Sanader, Dave Johnson, Elena Zachary, Heidi Korsavong, Irvine Fine Arts Center, Jason Lipeles, Jesse Pinedo, Jonathan Kawchuk, Lauren Godfrey, Lori Waxman, Manny Torres, Montana Clock, Nicole Choy, Sam Grawe, Shannon Finnegan, Sherry & Stephan Benjamins, Stef Halmos, Tao Fei, Virginia Arce.

Marta

Marta is a gallery that hosts works at the meeting points of art and design. Founded in Los Angeles in 2019, the gallery makes space for artists to experiment with the utility of design, and for designers to explore the occasional abandonment of function. Marta’s curatorial and publication programs take interest in both the process of an object’s creation as well the narrative of its creator(s). Marta embraces the intersection of disciplines, advocates for diversity in design, and promotes access to the arts.