Ben Venom, “Piece of Mind” and Lucien Shapiro, “Vessel” at Guerrero Gallery

by Admin on 09/24/2013

Guerrero Gallery ends its progressive 3 year-exhibition programming at its 19th street location (reopening soon at a new location to be announced) with two shows that are truly illustrative of the gallery’s ongoing mission to explore the multi-faceted local and international contemporary art and artists. These particular exhibitions feature two artists who, through working with re-purposed materials examine its unique process, popularity in contemporary art, and appeal to audiences.

Ben Venom’s solo exhibition, Piece of Mind contrasts the menacing and aggressive counterculture of biker gangs and the occult and its corresponding symbolic imagery of screaming eagles, pouncing tigers, and multiple tools and weaponry,with more pleasant and common domestic arts and crafts of high-technique quilting and textile-based projects. In Piece of Mind, Venom adds new found materials to his repertoire of heavy metal t-shirts, like hand-bleached “acid wash” denim, and leather. In Piece of Mind, there is an excellent use of perspective– in one image audiences enjoy rolling dice and a fox’s face turned to engage the viewer– which give even more texture and depth to his well-executed references to the heydays of “hair bands,” Death Metal, and motorcycle clubs. In his previous exhibition at Guerrero Gallery, I Call the Shots, Venom’s quilts held the traditional quilting picture viewpoint of a one-dimensional, flat surface. Here, there is greater intricacy and complexity in his designs. The feathers of an expansive eagle’s wingspan overlapping a chain-link border while a crown rises in the middle give intriguing movement to the image created.

In Vessels, which fills the Gallery’s Project Space, Oakland-based artist Lucien Shapiro presents several heavily-detailed and laboriously handmade masks, vessels, and a highly accomplished mixed-media suit complete with helmet and shield. Adding a deeper layer, they all coincide with specific performance rituals personal to the artist’s own experiences and reflections upon both major and minor life events, including the “Sinking Boats Belly Mask,” which is performed after one has recently been rejected or heart-broken, and “The Hustler’s Hooded Cloud,” mask, which has been fashioned with “what the wearer must push in order to carry on.” For Shapiro, masks, vessels, and the rituals they are used for may provide a personal, but always aesthetic shield from realities, as well as a context perhaps to process and review the at times chaotic, upending life events, and what they offer in the form of lessons, experiences, and memories of the bearer’s life path.

Shapiro’s work is a laborious craft, transforming forgotten objects and memories into treasure within a span of time that is often described as meditative for an artist, creating the “Urban Obsessions” kingdom through which he explores perceptions of “identity, addiction, and time.” Shapiro’s found art materials take particular interest in refuse materials as artifacts, or visual materials of culture and community. These seemingly insignificant objects like bottle-caps, discarded thread, empty lighters, keys, and more prompt viewers to evaluate and review significant ideals, such as what one’s own everyday possessions mean to them and represent of themselves.


Ben Venom, “Piece of Mind” and Lucien Shapiro, “Vessel” will be at Guerrero Gallery, 2700 19th St. through October 1