Lana Z Caplan: Peach Blossom Spring
Ben Evans: Full Count
January 3 – February 1 at Gallery NAGA
Gallery NAGA ushers in the new year with the exciting pairing of Lana Z Caplan and Benjamin Evans. Both artists present shows that explore the theme of complex relationships: humans interacting with the environment and humans interacting with each other. These two young artists offer the viewer an honest and unflinching look at the human condition and the way we live now.
In 2012, Lana Z Caplan was invited to spend the summer in Beijing as an Artist-in-Residence at the Inside Out Art Museum. While in China, Caplan was struck by the changes she witnessed since her previous visit in 2005. With a combination of color photographs, video installation, and 8×10” tintypes, Caplan uses her experiences in China to explore the larger theme of how our relationship to nature has changed as a result of industrialization and the shift to city dwelling.
The photographs juxtapose a combination of the natural with the man-made: simulated nature in the urban environment, unnatural interactions with animal life, and panoramic views mediated through glass or reproduction. In Tree-Lined, Caplan photographs the gap between curtains used to shield pedestrians from a construction worksite. The surreal dichotomy between simulated forest landscape and the industrial work site reality encapsulates the conflict between the desire for the natural world and the push toward development.
Caplan’s video installation re-envisions the traditional format of the documentary. The Loveliest Mountain of China, was shot in Huangshan, a southern mountain region of China. This piece is comprised of three vertically hung, high-definition TV monitors, spanning the length of the wall. On one end of the wall, a monitor displays the natural beauty of the landscape, replicating traditional Chinese painting of the region, with the fog, clouds, and light changing in real time. A monitor on the other end shows interviews of local people who work on the mountain in the tourist industry. The center monitor shows the tourists as they one by one enter and exit the frame to have their photo taken in front of the mountain.
Each component of Caplan’s show highlights a specific characteristic of a new relationship with nature. Caplan defines this relationship as, “an uncomfortable co-existence, and a struggle within the sublime…”
Navigating relationships is also a theme found in Benjamin Evans’ work. A recent graduate of New England School of Art and Design at Suffolk University, Evans incorporates found materials, film, and photography to mediate the concepts of love, sex, and virility. For his installation at NAGA, Evans explores the idea of how the game of baseball can be used to reflect on the concept of virility and relationships in a sexualized world. Evans constructs a baseball-themed environment installation to tell the story of the fictional rising star for the New Berry Roosters, Benny Cobb.
As a component of the installation, Evans made a magazine parodying Sports Illustrated. In an article profiling Benny Cobb’s career trajectory, the male reporter describes his fascination with Cobb: “These are things only us regular folk can dream about; the ability to play in the big leagues, being 23 years old again, watched by everyone, players and fans alike. When his turn comes to take the ball…he has that uncanny knack to make me feel like I’m 7 years old again, idolizing his profession, raw ability, and charismatic smile.” Cobb is a man with great talent and potential combined with unpredictability and self-doubt. Evans uses the character of Benny Cobb to discuss how we define masculinity and how the pressure to live up to this ideal affects relationships.
In his 2012 installation at NAGA, Coffee with Just Milk, Evans created a replica of ordinary household rooms to tell the story of a broken marriage. In this setting, Evans explored masculinity and the influence it has on love and desire. Full Count moves this discussion out of the private home and into the public space. With the whole world watching his every move, how will Cobb cope with new pressures and new temptations? The installation is a combination of vignettes that take the viewer from a major league baseball pitcher’s mound to the player’s locker room, and a young fan’s bedroom. Evans also incorporates video and sound to bring the viewer into the sub-conscious of the American male.
In a way, Benjamin Evans is questioning his own masculinity and identity as a man. Evans uses himself as the model for Cobb, stepping out of his own personality and using a caricature to create the platform for his art. In this way he is able to achieve a more honest and objective self-analysis. When asked about his use of role-playing to discuss these themes, Evans replied, “it’s always easier to talk about someone else.” Cobb as the stereotypical man’s man is the perfect medium for Evans to exploit the vulnerability underneath this masculine ideal.
Both Caplan and Evans engage the viewer, making the audience participants of the environments they have created.
A reception for the artists and public will be held at the gallery on Friday, January 3 from 6-8pm.