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1890 - 18-day murder trial of Castaic's W.C. Chormicle and W.A. Gardner ends in acquittal [story]
William Chormicle


| Thursday, May 16, 2019
James Benning
‘James Benning: Quilts, Cigarettes & Dirt (Portraits of America)’

 

The Museum of Contemporary Art Santa Barbara (MCASB) presents the West Coast solo debut of James Benning: Quilts, Cigarettes & Dirt (Portraits of America), which runs from Thursday, May 16 to Sunday, July 14.

Curated by MCASB Executive Director and Chief Curator Abaseh Mirvali, the exhibition offers works in various media by the prolific American filmmaker, artist and longtime faculty member of the School of Film/Video.

The exhibition includes new photographs and materials from Benning’s Portraits series, partly inspired by soil samples collected by the artist in Alabama. The collection also features a series of quilts inspired by the legendary quiltmakers of Gee’s Bend, an isolated rurality in Alabama’s Black Belt. The abstract quilts, crafted by local women from denim, work clothes and other distinctly working-class textiles, are considered some of the most important works in African American folk art. According to a recent radio segment about the exhibition by KCRW’s show The 805, Benning’s mathematics background was helpful in creating his own renditions—he is “pretty good at just fitting pieces of stuff together.”

Benning hosts a talk about the exhibition at the museum on Thursday, May 23. The talk is followed by a screening of Benning’s latest film, Readers (2017), a series of four uninterrupted close-up shots of four people reading books of their choice.

The related programming also includes two screenings of Benning’s Twenty Cigarettes (2011) on May 26 and May 29. The film pays homage to Andy Warhol’s famous screen tests, and stars 20 of Benning’s friends, each individually taped while smoking a cigarette as a distraction from the camera. Twenty Cigarettes fits neatly in the canon of Benning’s close-up works, paired with an exploration of watching versus being watched, and the relationship between individuals and imagery.

Benning’s filmography, which spans more than four decades, engages memory and history in documentary style, often amid a backdrop of an American landscape. A pioneer of the “figurative narrative,” Benning ushers viewers into a cinematic world where the intersection of time, space and perception reigns supreme.

The Val Verde-based artist’s works have been screened at venues like the Hammer Museum, the Whitney Museum of American Art, Walker Art Center, Kunsthalle Wien and the Centre d’art de L’Onde. His 2004 film 13 Lakes was added to the National Film Registry in 2014. Benning recently hosted a screening of two films, L.COHEN (2017) and two moons (2018), at REDCAT.

The films featured in James Benning: Quilts, Cigarettes & Dirt (Portraits of America) will be screened at MCASB and other venues throughout the duration of exhibition. See below for individual event details.

Event details:
James Benning: Quilts, Cigarettes & Dirt (Portraits of America)
Main Exhibition
Thursday, May 16—Sunday, July 14
Museum of Contemporary Art Santa Barbara
653 Paseo Nuevo, Santa Barbara

Celebrating James Benning: Opening Reception
Thursday, May 16, 6-9 pm
Museum of Contemporary Art Santa Barbara
653 Paseo Nuevo, Santa Barbara
RSVP

Screening | Readers
Sunday, May 19 and Thursday, May 23
Museum of Contemporary Art Santa Barbara
653 Paseo Nuevo, Santa Barbara
Sunday RSVP | Thursday RSVP

Artist Talk: James Benning
Thursday, May 23, 5:30 pm-6:30 pm
Museum of Contemporary Art Santa Barbara
653 Paseo Nuevo, Santa Barbara
RSVP

Screening | Twenty Cigarettes
Sunday, May 26, 3-5 pm
Museum of Contemporary Art Santa Barbara
653 Paseo Nuevo, Santa Barbara
RSVP

Community Screening | Twenty Cigarettes
Wednesday, May 29, 6-8 pm
The Santa Barbara Center for Art, Science and Technology
513 Garden St, Santa Barbara
RSVP

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