Ben Olson : solo exhibit
Ben Olson : solo exhibit
at Rogue Buddha Gallery
357 13th Ave. NE Mpls, MN 55413
runs through January 27th.
Walking into the Rogue Buddha Gallery in N.E. Minneapolis you are surrounded by the grand ego of a painter and his love. It is clear from the massive paintings that Ben Olson loves to paint and that his focus is directly on him and his wife. All of these paintings on board are of this subject . His brushes emote acrylic upon on the plywood with a painterliness that has the whip of William Dekooning, the directness of Lucien Freud and the expression of a Egon Schiele.
Schiele painted 90 years ago, died young and is known best for the tortured portraits of himself and his incestuous relationship with his sister. While, Egon broke the status quo by drawing open leg pubic hair and was hounded by censors and labeled a pornographer, Olson shies away from the pubic and for the most part keeps the clothes on. Olson seems more concerned with painting the domestic emotions of everyday life. His brushstroke carries this perfectly and celebrates what he calls “ a moment that we are all afraid to admit that we want to watch”.
The paintings in this honored Twin City Gallery revel in the marriage of two people that is both raw and fluid. The paintings at times seem to be in a state of shock and the emotions in them feel like they will drip off the frame. All together, these moments seem to be the building blocks of an intimate life. Simply, they appear to be portraying a hard morning or the thrill of fitting into a sexy pair of jeans. This is Olson’s domestic bliss.
The voyeur in me wishes for something even more explicit like; pictures of them fucking, in a warm afterglow or exposing much more inner thigh. But let us remember, these folks are married, that’s been done, this is a Midwest art gallery and not an internet celebrity sex tape!
Olson’s best paintings help me forget this, like Landscape or Untitled 60 (aka Self Portrait). In 60, it is of the painter flexing his pecs and biceps. His svelte, youthful body explodes off a background of shimmering gold leaf with the edges of the plywood and the under painting revealed. The image feels like a wall mirror at an LA disco or an adoring manifestation of a young rock star. The acrylic painted skin is flush with pinks and creams as if he is turning himself on by this artistic act or has just pumped iron. In the lower frame, foreshortened hip-hugging jeans form a immaculate pedestal to support his torso. This is youthfulness at its epoch and the icing on his cake is that there isn’t a cool t-shirt giving us a pop answer but just tiny penciled words on his chest saying, “Misfits”.
Strangely, Olson compositions remind me of some American Apparel ads. They both draws us in with a progressive but sultry directness. Who wouldn’t like to wear this intimacy with your love? Is it the underclothes Olson paints on his wife? Are they too, not crafted in a sweatshop? Or is it the brush strokes that make it feel so sexy, so alienated, so just about them?
I vote with the brushes. They stream an energy that activates his feelings and they swirl around the portrait in a way American Apparel could never achieve. He successfully splashes his emotions on the painting’s ground that exposes his lust for life. It is why he is a painter. The brush releases Ben Olson’s soul, one that is spirited, expressive and caring.
Wojahn is a arts writer for the Visual Art Critics Union of Minnesota (VACUM). For more info on VACUM go to www.mnartists.org/vacum