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- The Lincoln Road 500 - A Drawing Performance

Updated: May 16

The “Lincoln Road 500” is a long-duration public drawing performance that I completed in one sitting over the span of 32 hours.


The performance spanned the days of October 16, 17 & 18th 2021.


The event occurred on Miami Beach at the Lincoln Road Mall, Euclid Oval.


I started at 9:00 pm on the Saturday night of October 16, 2021; and finished 32 hours later at 5:00 am on the Monday morning of October 18, 2021.

Photos from the end of the drawing performance.

  • First photo: Posing with the 500 count sign

  • Second photo: My drawing table after the 500th drawing was completed

  • Third photo: The 500th drawing

  • Fourth photo: Reaction after completing the 500th drawing


To view, the database of the 500 drawings visit the "Lincoln Road 500" Instagram site.


Screenshots from the "Lincoln Road 500" Instagram site, showing how the drawings look together.


In parallel, my solo exhibition "The Joy of Life" which opened during Art Week Miami 2021, on November 30, 2021; was in the planning stage.


It became obvious that the "Lincoln Road 500" was a key element of the "Joy of Life" project.



Lincoln Road 500 - Idea Genesis


During the early days of the Covid-19 lockdown in 2020, I was working in my studio between 12-16 hours per day.


At the end of these rigorous painting sessions, I create brush-and-ink drawings to wind down my practice. I do these drawings daily to explore what I have left creatively in me after I think I have nothing left. Like the last few miles of a marathon, this period is a way to see what exists deep within my psyche.


I became curious regarding what images I was able to create; with the level of honesty and efficiency of my touch on the drawings.


Drawings always seemed to flow out of me and I wanted to explore my image creating ideas and limits. Pushing far past where I had ventured in the past. Seeking new discoveries in my art-making practice.


I began exploring how a marathon art-making session would impact not only my work but myself as a person and artist.



It was in those days with these thoughts, that I conceived of a drawing performance where I would create 500 drawings in one sitting.


I chose the number 500 because it was a challenging number to achieve.

I was seeking an opportunity to make myself vulnerable on various fronts while being accessible to the public throughout the process. Bringing my studio practice outside of the walls of my workspace where I could just as easily fail as succeed.


Venturing into the deep waters of both my psyche and artwork. This project enabled me to break down the walls/barriers of my studio, self, and ego. Intuitively knowing that it had the potential to affect me, my work, and my life.


Sensing that the limitations of the Covid-19 quarantines were winding down, I had a desire to jump into the public sphere and embrace the joy I felt in my creative process aspiring to more normal interactions with the public.


I was looking for a public place to perform this work that had constant traffic at all hours of the day and night.


The Lincoln Road pedestrian mall in the heart of South Beach was an emotional choice for me. I had been going to Lincoln Road ever since arriving from Cuba 55 years ago.


Various images around the Lincoln Road Mall in Miami Beach. Final image of me working with architectural element in the background


Growing up in Miami Beach I experienced the transformation of Lincoln Road through the various phases of my life over these years.


I submitted my proposal for the performance to the Lincoln Road Business Improvement District which was immediately accepted.


With Timothy Schmand, Director of the Lincoln Road BID the day before the performance.

The date selected for the performance was Saturday night of October 16, 2021.


A press release was created for this event which is accessible on my website following this link below:


https://www.atelierbenito.com/post/press-release-lincoln-road-500



The video above captures the event of the Lincoln Road 500 during different times of the performance.


Excerpts of images and videos from this performance posted on my Instagram Stories can be found using the link below:


https://www.instagram.com/stories/highlights/17887234274400790/



Lincoln Road 500 - Work Effort


The event started at 9:00 pm on the Saturday night of October 16th, and ended at 5:00 am on the Monday morning of October 18th. Spanning 32 hours.



Starting the Lincoln Road 500 drawing performance. Drawing #1.


The event took place in the open air on Lincoln Road’s Euclid Oval in the heart of South Beach.


I worked non-stop throughout this period to complete the 500 drawing goal.


Euclid Oval, Lincoln Road, Miami Beach, Florida - Site of "Lincoln Road 500" drawing performance


Documenting the 500 Drawings


I was working with a team of people who were supporting me in this effort. Moshe Esquenazi (my son) and Jolaye Williams (Jo) were my primary assistants for this event. Taking turns the first day and then both staying with me through the end of the last day. Their assistance was invaluable.

As I completed drawings they photographed and posted the images onto the "Lincoln Road 500" Instagram account created specifically for this event.


A tremendous work effort!


They would then attach the drawings to wires rigged around the tent where they were displayed for a period of time. As new drawings were completed, they swapped out the older drawings. Allowing me to showcase the constant stream of drawings I was producing to the public.


They live-streamed the performance periodically on Instagram as well as posted it to the project's Instagram account.


Anyone following the 32-hour performance on those days would have seen a constant stream of photos of my drawings appearing on the project's Instagram account as they were being created and processed.


Here Jo, Moshe, and I are discussing how we will be documenting the drawings. The photo was taken in my studio several days before.


My wife Ariela, was managing the event. Ensuring I had the space to focus on achieving my objective. Whether it was to provide encouragement or share insights into my progress. She was invaluable to the success of the project. In many of the videos of the event, one can see her engaged in the event allowing me to stay in my creative zone.


Kanu Ford was the event photographer and video artist. He documented the preparation of the performance and captured photographs and videos of the event. We share a deep kinship with love and understanding of art as "the way" of life.


Kanu and I during the event.



Cataloging the Drawings


After completing each drawing I stamped each work with the Lincoln Road 500 project logo, and then again with a sequential numbering stamp.



The image of the stamp is of an architectural element of the Lincoln Road Mall at the location of the event.



As each drawing was completed, they were placed on the ground to dry.





They were then photographed and posted to the performance project's Instagram "Lincoln Road 500" account with their corresponding number.


The Instagram post was numbered to correspond to the number of the drawing (1-500). This Instagram site serves as the database for this project.




Sale of the Drawings during the event to benefit Charity


During the event, 250 of the drawings were made available for sale with all proceeds to benefit charities. As the drawings were being completed I had placed a blue dot on the ones that would be available to sell for charity.

After they were posted to the “Lincoln Road 500” Instagram site, they were then processed by an off-site team led by Esther Esquenazi (my daughter) to make them available for purchase on Shopify. Whose seamless work in the background made the sales possible.


Approximately 50 drawings were sold with all the proceeds donated to one of two local charities.


Photos with some of the new collectors of my work with their purchased drawings that day:

  1. Dan Mikesell, 2. Unknown, 3. Unknown, 4. Karen Sepsenwol. 5. High School friends stopped by to keep me company, 6. With my cousin Danny Del Castillo, 7. My uncle Israel and aunt Zelda stopped by early



26 additional drawings- were framed and exhibited during my one-person exhibition during Art Week Miami 2021 titled the “The Joy of Life”; at the Miami Beach JCC - Schwartz / Jacobs Gallery opening on November 30th, 2021.



Additional Support Team Members

Rounding out my support team is Nicole Casamento the Social Media consultant for this project. I have worked with Nicole since early 2020 on various initiatives. We started to work together during the early days of the Covid-19 quarantine.


Paul Tolles ran the operations for this event involving the planning, physical setup, and break-down of the performance location. Paul engineered the rigging for how the drawings were going to be displayed.


He was supported by Klifford Bautista and Sean Deller.


Holly Seeger expertly handled all the photoshop work supporting this project.


Aliya Yusuf was invaluable in setting up the Instagram to Shopify integration. Her deft hand and mind on the technology allowed us to sell drawings during the event to benefit local Miami charities.


Many thanks to Shmuel Maybruch who was on "Team Benito" (my therapist). Who validated my positive intuitions regarding embracing the moment, and being present. Reinforcing the trust of my initial instincts throughout this project.


No project is successfully achieved alone. I benefited from having a great support team that managed and supported the event behind the scenes.



Completing the Final Drawing of the Lincoln Road 500


The video from the streaming of my completion of the final 500th drawing is visible below.

This drawing was completed at approximately 5:00 am on Monday morning5:00 am on October 18th.



Performance Preparation


Marina Abramovic was a significant inspiration for this work. In preparing for the Lincoln Road 500, I studied Marina Abramovic and other performance artists' work.

Specifically Marina’s approach to what a performance is, how an artist must prepare for it and how it needs to be performed.


Three months before the event date I undertook a series of fasts, modified my diet, participated in therapy, stopped consuming alcohol, and made my workout routines more regular.


"Marina Abramovic & Me" from my Artist & Me Series, 2021


I took to heart some materials gleaned from the various sources of information I learned from studying Marina’s process. Primarily that the performance needs to erupt from a place deep within instead of being a calculated result from some type of external thought process independent of the experience.

A differentiation between acting and performance was understood in my studying Marina. Where acting involves an external manifestation of the event. Compared to performing that an internal commitment and investment of one's entire being from within that is required to be successful. I understood that I wanted to create an intrinsically real event where I had the opportunity to fail or succeed.


Gleaning additional insights from Bruce Lee who stated that “he does not fear the person that practices 10,000 kicks. He fears the person that practices one kick 10,000 times.” My focus was to remain present for each drawing. Leaning into any fear or doubt I would experience throughout the process.

Comfy, Cozy & Resting the day before the event on a team call

going over the final details for the event.


Like Marina in her performance at MoMA, “The Artist is Present”. Where she was focused on sitting across from one person at a time, not an audience full of people. I too strived to make one drawing at a time. Being present in each one, for each one, not race to reach a number.


I had no idea whether I would be able to create 500 drawings using the approach. Though I trusted my preparation process and intuition.



During my preparation for this performance, I never timed myself in the studio to gauge the amount of time it would take me to complete this effort. I did not want to contrive, measure or prepare artistically for this event other than working on myself.



I continued my previous practice before I entertained this performance. I made at least four drawings at the end of each of my studio sessions. So I could explore what images lurked inside me, observe my hand, and challenge myself beyond the time I ended my studio session.



Summary


Conceiving, preparing, and performing the Lincoln Road 500 was one of my life’s most meaningful experiences.


Wherever I go, this experience will always be a part of me.


I believe it will be years before I understand the deep impact this work has on me.


That is why I took such great pains to document my experience. I want it as a record of a moment in time, where a person decided that this was a gate they had to walk through to experience the other side of a self, practice, and ego that is evolving as he writes these words.


1. Carrying the drawings to the car following the performance.

2. Brushes used during the drawing performance. My main brush fell apart with 60 drawings to go.

3. Arriving home with hands full of ink after the performance while it was still dark outside. Wearing my favorite hat.

4. & 5. Passed out after I sat down that morning. Wearing event t-shirt.

6. Close up of my hand punching a number on a drawing during the event.



Images from the event



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