Klemens Gasser & Tanja Grunert Gallery is pleased to announce a solo exhibition of
powerful new work by Benjamin Cottam. The artist’s fifth solo exhibition with the gallery
includes some of his most trenchant works to date. Bringing highly skilled, neo-classical
draftsmanship to two of today’s most dominant subjects in American culture—American
military engagements in the Middle East and an obsession with reality television and its
‘stars,’ Cottam’s new works evoke both master techniques of the past—think of Poussin
or Ingres—and two major impulses of contemporary culture. His series of “reality stars”
foregrounds our culture’s obsessive interest in the personal lives of otherwise unremarkable
individuals, and, paired in the same exhibition, his “collateral damage” drawings reveal the
veiled realities of others caught in the crossfire halfway around the world.
While no one may actually believe in the reality that broadcast and cable television
productions feign to represent, viewers are drawn to them nonetheless. Cottam’s
unconventional pairing of these two bodies of work evokes an underlying darkness that
connects them. Relying heavily on the concept of ‘rubber necking’: the drive to view a car
crash, the impossibility to avert ones eyes in the face of such tragedy—Reality Stars are
those train wrecks waiting to happen for our entertainment. By contrast, the other group of
Cottam’s drawings, his intimately drawn works in white wax crayon on blue paper, reflect
some of the worst atrocities of our time. And these are almost never represented in the
tabloid media sphere or even our top news outlets. His collateral damage drawings show
anonymous victims of drone strikes rarely seen by the general public, firing squads and
military personnel posing with their first ‘kills’. Rarely witnessed, their existence is actively
obscured. Their touching and heart-wrenching portraits are shown together with Cottam’s
diminutive portraits of reality ‘stars’ like Kris Kardashian and Honey Boo-Boo, who are in
comparison totally overplayed in the media.
Cottam is known for past bodies of work such as his Dead Artists series, where he first
experimented with small silverpoint portraits of (mostly male) artists from the canon of
modern art in the West. Subsequently, he touched upon the subject of the tragic pop star
with his first drawing of a figure not from art history, the rock star, Amy Winehouse.
Simultaneously, Benjamin Cottam made darkly layered portraits of friends and colleagues
that appear at first glance to be black monochrome paintings. These too linked life, death
and the relative legibility of the human face in portraiture.
Benjamin Cottam lives and works in New York City. He received his BFA from the San
Francisco Art Institute, and his MFA from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in
Boston, Massachusetts. His work has been shown and collected internationally, and recent
major museum shows include No New Thing Under the Sun, Royal Academy of Arts,
London, 2010; Stuff, Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, Detroit, Michigan, 2007; Of
Mice and Men, The 4th Berlin Biennial for Contemporary Art, Berlin Germany, 2006, as
well as gallery shows at Bartha Contemporary in London, Galerie Von Bartha in Basel and
solo exhibitions at Klemens Gasser & Tanja Grunert, NY. Cottam’s work has been
collected by The Museum of Modern Art, NY, and the Whitney
Museum of American Art, NY.
For more information or to request hi-res images, please contact Tanja Grunert
email@example.com or 646 994 6197.
April 26th - June 1st, 2014
Klemens Gasser & Tanja Grunert, Inc.