LAWRENCE – For Benjamin Rosenthal, “queering” the gallery for his new solo exhibition at studios inc. involves more than a sense of the body through designs of phallus-like shapes and incorporating strips of Calvin Klein underwear. It’s in the way he mixes the art forms of drawing, painting, sculpture and video.
The University of Kansas visual arts associate professor has a new show called ‘And the Band Played Again and Again,’ which runs through Sept. 24 at the Front Gallery of Kansas City, Missouri, a nonprofit organization. non-profit dedicated to helping mid-career artists. Rosenthal received a three-year artist residency, which consists of over 2,000 square feet of studio and exhibition space. He received an additional year in the studio extension program. This show is the culmination of that work.
“The title of the show refers to the Titanic, the sinking ship on which the band kept playing, but also to the film of 1993 that tackles the AIDS pandemic, which is still happening,” Rosenthal said. “And so, for me, this job is a very strange job. This work has subtle and suggestive references to queer experience in image, material and language – and sometimes not so subtle. But I think for members of the LGBTQ community, the COVID-19 pandemic has a different relationship with us because of the distinction between the speed with which we push to fight this pandemic and the lack of energy of a government and public perspective in addressing the AIDS epidemic, which has killed so many people and continues to do so.
“It’s quite striking, and so I think the exhibition is cheeky but also solemn, because there’s an element of thinking about longing but also about death and loss and how those things are going to intersect. “
Rosenthal favors a fleshy, almost internal pink tone in his sculptures, sometimes blackened as if by fire, other areas fading to cool, ghostly white. Rosenthal said that one of the pieces, “Portrait of a Ghost[ed] image, (mirrored, breathless(ed)),” matches his height of 6ft 2in. Another even taller build was inspired by a particular loose (and almost embarrassed) gay bathing or sex club pose, he said. This is the kind of large-scale work that his Studios Inc. residency has particularly enabled.
The exhibition also contains one of Rosenthal’s colorful video works, an original 90-second animated loop projected from the ceiling onto the gallery floor. Rosenthal said it worked as a transition from one part of the exhibit to another, as well as by itself.
“It’s almost a medical, observational, standing-from-above perspective,” Rosenthal said. “It’s not really like entertainment; like watching a TV hanging on the wall. It’s really part of the space and part of the trajectory between the different objects in the exhibition.
Overall, Rosenthal said, the exhibit “isn’t just about sexual identity or gender identity, even though that’s an integral part of it. But it’s also, from a theoretical and philosophical, a way of recategorizing or rethinking or destabilizing what is normative, what is normal So when I queer things, when I consider myself queer, or queer the gallery space or queer a queer object or language – by participating in active queering – I hope to destabilize what we think it should be or what we think it is. Thus, a body is not necessarily a stable category in the way we think that bodies are normative, binary, non-disabled. There are so many different ways we expect bodies, language and images that refer to our bodies, in particular, to be normative. But when we the queers, they become intermediate categories ediaries. They are constantly evolving and changing depending on what is near or around them.
“What interests me is to question these sorts of boundaries between body and object, between language and fragment, between drawing and painting… If I can open up beyond the categories I expect and which are expected, I can create new possibilities or new futures or new potential outcomes.
The studios.gallery is located at 1708 Campbell St., Kansas City, Missouri, and is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and noon to 4 p.m. Saturday. Masks are mandatory.
Picture: Ben Rosenthal has a solo exhibition at studios.gallery in Kansas City, Missouri. Credit: Rick Hellman, KU News Service.