Waiting, at last
By Nancy Wisti-Grayson and Jean Alexander Frater
*This essay was written on the event of Benjamin Larose’s Solo exhibition presented by Material:
I’LL SEE YOU WHEN YOU GET HERE
December 8, 2019 – January 12, 2020
When we asked Benjamin Larose to present his work at Material over the winter months, he decided to take on the theme of holiday and family. Steeped with personal stories and loaded with associations, objects, memories, and decoration; holidays are often the time when family comes together again. They may live close or far, but the routine and physical distance that typically separate family members is gone. Tradition and holidays are the cause which bring us together, to re-convene and span long periods of, sometimes joyful, and sometimes excruciating time in one place. We are often waiting to be joined together and simultaneously waiting for a moment of separation.
One might expect from an artist who is known for his own enormous collection of objects that the space would be quickly filled with color, lights, etc. Instead, Benjamin turned away from maximalist aesthetics and turned toward the sentiments involved in the holidays. While still using the objects that are the stuff of surface and decoration, Larose digs deeper, strips these objects of their clothing, color and contents. Larose stages each work like characters, in an arrangement of relational objects about family, memory, and time.
During a season when the most intense maximalist impulses are triggered and our bodies swell, our closets spill over and our credit card debt inflates, here there is, instead of anxiety and frustration, a relief given to us. Larose has created a contemplative anticipation: consider waiting. We understand that this isn’t the first time nor the last, but that the waiting period, the empty time is a time when we can be the most reflective. Accompanying the exhibition is this text written by Larose:
Objects on idle
others are almost gone, spent, consumed
What do you make
of folding chairs when no one visits anymore
the coat hooks by the door
of time when the hours and years linger
What do you make of yourself
steeping and waiting
To no point
if no one is coming
Witness to time
The artist doesn’t tell us what his title means: “I’LL SEE YOU WHEN YOU GET HERE,” but it does involve waiting. The clues to an interpretation of this title are stripped away, no voice clues or intonation. However, inherent in the sentence is that the I and you are familiar - they are not together but they will be, or hope to be. It is a sentiment of familiarity, time between, and potentiality. The desire is banal but it is also familial.
There is both a hopefulness and hopelessness in the title. The hope of a visitor arriving. The accumulation of time that is shown through the worn, completed puzzles that are placed on the empty coat racks. The chair with the tennis balls on the bottom to enable smoother movement is bogged down by its pile of flattened and empty boxes stacked up in a pyramid and topped by a bear candle. How long has the wick waited to be lit? Colors are gone, music is replaced by creaking. There’s a sense of use and unused and used up. Who is waiting? Will someone ever come or will time continue to pass as evidenced by the completed puzzles, piled up and displayed with lost presence?
The work here is stripped of the traditional exuberance of colors and decoration that we associate with seasonal events and gatherings. We are left with objects that you might expect to be decorative, colorful, exuberant, but time or the artist’s hand have both removed the surface delight. Do these objects still have any worth? They feel spent, used, worn out. The creaking figures, who have literally been stripped of their clothing move rhythmically, their bodies squeaking against the styrofoam packages which still protects them as they clench on to their own objects in this strange collection.
The only seating available is a chair which is temporarily occupied by a wax bear on top of stacks of boxes, the contents of which are all used up. On the walls are mounted finished puzzles as another series of togetherness and time, but the color, the vibrancy, the image is worn, washed and sanded away. They become formal compositions of lines and layers and cracks. Pieces are glued together, presumably to preserve the image and remember the effort of this quiet communal, activity. They are also stripped from decoration, the color stays only in the cracks, coloring the moment when each piece fits together. They are set in groupings on top of empty coat racks. The wood, the paper, the segments of color, the white, the brown, the ordinary and understated all waiting for its activation. Larose is the only one who can remember or suss out its prior image to explore deeper and often more somber meanings of family, tradition, and honor relationships almost as an accumulation of time.
Larose seems to be asking for meaning in the vague memory of things. When time passes and how the accumulation of experiences slowly fades from our associated objects, into our own bodies and we become the thingness of our memories, and the objects are less colorful, less dynamic, quieter, slower, but almost paradoxically, the exuberance of our memory to meaning is accessed through thoughtfulness and time as it spans along.