Gavin Benjamin, former resident artist at The Westmoreland Museum of American Art, returns to the Greensburg museum for an exhibition featuring photographic portraits of local community members taken during his residency.

“Gavin Benjamin: Break Down and Let It All Out,” the inaugural project of the museum’s new contemporary series to be featured in its historic paneled rooms, will be on view from Oct. 16 through Feb. 5. Through this exhibition, Benjamin works to acknowledge the past while also visualizing possibilities for the present and gesturing to a more equitable future.

“It is my hope that this exhibition will result in deeper conversations surrounding the arts in Greensburg and the longstanding influence of the African American community within the museum setting,” stated Benjamin. “I wanted to reframe the idea of a residency as an all-encompassing endeavor that reaches far into the corners of the museum, its collection, and the Greensburg community.”

To create the body of work featured in “Break Down and Let It All Out,” Benjamin photographed more than 60 local community members. The exhibition then combines the installation of a domestic space owned by a fictional Black family for nearly 250 years, which includes works of fine and decorative art from the museum’s permanent collection, with these psychologically rich portraits.

“Museums are nothing without their audiences, and this exhibition makes that explicit,” indicated Chief Curator Jeremiah William McCarthy. “It will be wonderful to see the reactions of the community members featured in Gavin’s portraits as they view this installation in the museum’s beautiful paneled room spaces for the first time.”

“I am delighted that we are able to help fulfill the vision Gavin had for the culmination of his residency here at The Westmoreland with the presentation of ‘Gavin Benjamin: Break Down and Let It All Out.’ Gavin’s work has had a lasting positive impact within our museum, and we are thrilled to invite everyone into this conversation about art, culture, and our place in history,” commented Interim Director/CEO and Chief Operating Officer Suzanne Wright.

Benjamin is one of five artists to participate in The Westmoreland’s Artist-in-Residency Program presented in partnership with BOOM Concepts and made possible by generous support from The Pittsburgh Foundation and The New Sun Rising Arts | Equity | Reimagined program. The residency program emphasizes the museum’s commitment to “engaging and supporting Black and marginalized artists, to promoting equity in the arts, and to sharing compelling and meaningful cultural experiences with the regional community.”

Benjamin’s residency occurred from March through July 2021.

As part of the presentation of “Break Down and Let It All Out,” Benjamin will take part in an In Conversation public program at the museum 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 19, when he will discuss his exhibition with McCarthy. After the discussion, attendees will have the opportunity to view the exhibition. This program is free with advance registration recommended. To register, visit thewestmoreland.org/calendar.

“Gavin Benjamin: Break Down and Let It All Out” is generously supported by The Fine Foundation.

Benjamin makes work that reimagines the genre and traditions of portraiture. Often combining original analog photography and appropriated images with collage, paint and varnish, he creates rich works, which he says, “call back to baroque traditions, but use elements of current culture to provoke, critique and explore.” Benjamin’s work investigates the intersection of culture, media, politics, fashion and design, addressing questions that confront a man of color in America today. He said, “My work reflects everything that I’m thinking – it includes everything that I love and everything that I’m challenged by. It’s honest and curious and bright and thoughtful. And sometimes a little dark. It’s all of the things that made me want to be a professional artist in the first place.”

Benjamin was born in Guyana, South America, and raised in Brooklyn, New York. He received his BFA from the School of Visual Arts in New York City. During this time, he interned with legendary portrait photographer Arnold Newman. After school, he worked at agencies representing commercial and advertising photographers, prop stylists, and hair and makeup artists, and then went on to work as a freelance production coordinator/photo editor with stints at Kenneth Cole Productions, Esquire, Hachette Filipacchi Media and Good Housekeeping.

His work has appeared at the Slick Paris, Sotheby’s NY, Architectural Digest Home Design Show, Art Hampton, Affordable Art Fair, Scope Miami, Palm Beach Modern, Context Miami, Context NY, Art Silicon Valley, and the LA Art Fair.

Visit gavinbenjamin.com.

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