Efrain Lopez Gallery is pleased to present Full Grown, an exhibition of new works by Chicago-based artist Ben Foch. The artist’s first solo show with the gallery will inaugurate its new project space at 916 North Damen Avenue. The exhibition opens with a public reception for the artist on Wednesday, September 26th from 8 to 11 PM.
“Full Grown” references subtly the full bodied, full flavor experience promised by the cigarette brand that inspires Foch’s Newport Beach painting series, which meditates on the shifts in personal identity that take place over the transformation from childhood to young adulthood to the imprecise moment where one becomes “fully grown.” Though Foch’s Newport Beach (2018) canvases at first appear to be restrained studies in green, white and gold, an instant jolt of recognition connects them to Newports, a brand of cigarette notoriously marketed to African American children and teenagers. Foch recalls that he began smoking out of a desire to “feel like an adult”.
A lingering attachment to childish things (and oral stimulation) motivates Wacka Wacka Wacka (2018), a pattern of plaintive, thumb-sucking Fozzie Bears with darkened fur. Their juxtaposition with the Newport paintings is especially pointed when considering the myriad, relentless ways in which black youngsters in America are denied their childhood. More than merely nostalgic, Foch’s works ponder the ways in which the romanticization of hardship situate “the artist” outside of conventional notions of what it means to be an “adult.” While sacrificing such benchmarks as marriage, home ownership, and retirement in favor of bohemianism may entice the already privileged, this status quo often looks different to peoples denied the fiscal and social capital to realize it in the first place.
Aware that he does not enjoy the same unquestioned claim to “objectivity” exercised in modernist opuses such as Barnett Newman’s “zip” paintings (to which the Newport works refer), Foch hesitated to execute ideas he initially developed in 2004/05. Foch then believed that an exploration of systemic racism, classism, and modernist claim-staking would offend in a way that he literally could not afford. Recent signs that the artworld is gradually acknowledging its ties to colonialism and oppression inspired Foch to revisit these waylaid plans. He recalled through this process that inner-artworld cultural conventions prompted him to quit smoking Newports in his first year at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, due to the social stigma associated with the brand. The pressure to repress and adapt behaviors linked to race and class is a subtle, but familiar violence to so many. In response, Foch’s “WORK” (a chorus repeated in Hypnotic Trigger ) becomes a non-violent weapon of choice. Infused with the activated histories they initially repressed, strategies of image- making speak differently, evoking a self at last “Full Grown” through shameless self-acceptance.
Ben Foch is an artist, curator, and collector based in Chicago. His studio practice is rooted in a tradition of “painting/ non-painting,” employing techniques that can be considered both “pop” and “conceptual” and tackling topics from institutional critique to race, class, and gender identity politics. He is Director of YOGA, an artist-run exhibition space opening in Chicago’s East Garfield Park neighborhood September 28, 2018, and Co- Director of 1.5 RMS in Brooklyn, New York, for which he received a 2016 Graham Foundation grant. He co- directed New Capital (Chicago) from 2010-2017 and boyfriends (Chicago) from 2015-2017.