Benito Esquenazi

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 Modernist Masters is what I hope will ultimately define them.


I knew I wanted to be an artist in the tradition of Picasso since I was five years old. My family moved from Santiago de Cuba to Miami Beach in 1966. 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 up painting seriously at the age of 13 and further committed to it after graduating high school and attending Miami Dade Community College from 1979-1981. I studied with Roberto Martinez, in private classes. At Miami Dade, I studied with Robert Thiele, Salvatore La Rosa and Jon Kitner. The experience gave me the confidence to move to New York City, my spiritual art home. I moved to New York in 1981 to study drawing and painting at Pratt Institute 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. I felt, however, that I lost something important through formal art education and lamented that I was a less intuitive artist after finishing college. 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, and I was fortunate to take part in all of it. 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 ‘80s though the mid ‘90s, I focused on creating a “personal mythology” in a series about an angel/earth-goddess woman who could leap across space, time, and dimensions.


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 to paint. In 2015, I was able to return to art. Now, at 58 years old, I once again spend the majority of my days and nights in the studio, revisiting old ideas and creating new idioms. The human form remains an important part of my work but organic forms and Symbolist-like landscapes have become a regular part of my visual vocabulary as well. I continue to explore archetypes and gender roles as I attempt to enter a conversation with Matisse’s “Dancers,” Picasso, Cézanne, and others.


I leave two chairs outside my studio, one for Cézanne and one for Picasso. Cézanne is always present when I am in the studio. Picasso comes to visit every once in a while to check up on me. Each day, I hope to invite them—and you—inside for a visit. Perhaps you will sit for me and let me paint your portrait. Perhaps you will pick up a brush and create alongside me or bring one of my paintings or poems to life through your own music or dance. As I open my mind to allow the creative stillness of the world to enter, I open my studio doors to the collaborative community that may let my art enter the world.


Please join me.


- Benito

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New York, New York, USA

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