ARTIST BIO

Benito Esquenazi

Woman in Bar

My work builds on the traditions of Modernist and Postmodernist painting—particularly their focus on getting to the essence of picture making itself.  My goal is to find the primal, connected spirit of the lines—the way colors, shapes, and forms converge on the canvas.

 

Though my ultimate goal is to find perfection through the formal qualities of a painting, I am excited by and explore much figurative content as a starting point, especially the human form, music, street art, poetry, and my personal life experiences. I put these inspirations in conversation with important works of art that I have been moved by in person. So while the cadences of memories, sounds, and words animate much of my work, my ongoing dialogues with current and previous Masters is what I hope will ultimately define them.

 

I knew I wanted to be an artist since I was five years old. I moved from Santiago de Cuba to Miami Beach in 1966 with some of my family. One of my earliest memories in Miami Beach was when working intently on a finger painting alone in the sink-room of my kindergarten classroom, saying with certainty that I was going to be an artist, “just like Picasso,” when I grew up. I took painting classes when I was 12 years old, and further committed to it after graduating Miami Beach Senior high school; while  attending Miami Dade Community College - North Campus from 1979-1981. At Miami Dade, I studied with Robert Thiele and Salvatore La Rosa who were generous with their teachings and friendship. I also studied independently with Roberto Martinez during those years. These experiences  gave me the confidence to move to New York City, my spiritual art home to pursue a career in art. I moved to New York in 1981 to study drawing and painting at Pratt Institute. Studying with Ernest Briggs, Rudolph Baranik, Richards Ruben, and Jenny Snyder. I graduated from Pratt in 1984.

 

I worked very hard as an artist during college and gained much from the experience. Though I felt, however, that I lost something important through my formal art education, becoming a less intuitive artist. Therefore, it became my mission in my 20s to un-learn as much as I could and reconnect with the raw, intuitive source that once spoke to me clearly.

 

New York City in the 1980s provided fertile stomping grounds for exploring everything from street art to fringe music in the midst of a gritty and explosively creative NYC environment which I was fortunate to take part in. Living in Greenpoint in 1984, then Williamsburg, Brooklyn between 1985-1988. I spent most of my time in the Lower East Side art scene which enabled me to merge my formal art training with the culture of the moment. I maintained a rigorous studio and street-art practice at nights and on weekends. I paid the bills with day jobs as an art handler for galleries and art service companies. For a short time, I also had the privilege of working as an artist assistant to Jack Goldstein. This all helped me tap back into my intuitive source and develop my own style as an artist. From the mid 1980's though the mid 1990's, I focused on creating a “personal mythology” through an "Angel" series that explored the journey of an angel who could leap across space, time, and dimensions.

 

I participated in group shows during this time and curated a "New York-Miami, Miami-New York Exchange Show" that brought together over 80 artists from both locations to show in each other's city.

 

During the late 1980's to 1994, I ran an art-service company and continued my studio practice. 

 

In 1994-1995 I opened and ran one of the first art-galleries on the Lower East Side called ArtTrax located at 100 Orchard Street. Where I curated a series of 5 exhibitions titled "Technological Disconnection". Where we showed various artists that included James Siena, Mark Sheinkman, Christopher Gianakos, Will Insley, Betty Woodman, RM Fisher, Nam June Paik, Marry Miss, Gyorgy Kepes, and others.

 

 

In 1995 I paused my art practice to raise my five children. I was a single dad for some of those years, so it was difficult to find time for a studio practice. In 2015, I was able to return to my formal art-making practice. Now, at 59 years old, I once again spend the majority of my days and nights in the studio. Exploring social themes, ancient and discovered personal mythologies . The human form, social themes, street art as well as formal art considerations remain a signifanct part of my work. As I continue to explore archetypes and gender roles, and the role of an artist in our day. 

 

Do not hesitate to reach out to say hello, talk art, inquire about the purchase of my work, or any interest to show my work.

Since the art is not complete until someone gazes on it!

Thank you for your interest in my story and hopefully my work.

- Benito