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"The Moment”: New Works by Benito Esquenazi, An Emerging 59-Year-Old NY Painter

Updated: 2 days ago

Exhibition is open through October 31, by Appointment.


Exhibiting new work for the first time in over 30 years, Benito Esquenazi presents his exhibition “The Moment,” on view at a Pop-Up gallery “Art Room Across from MoMA” in Midtown, New York.

Esquenazi’s paintings mine conceptual questions about the dynamics of intimate relationships, gender, his dream world, and formative life experiences. The works manifest as vibrant, figurative forms on increasingly chromatic canvases as Esquenazi merges his personal experiences with art historical references.

There are three primary series on view in this exhibition. The first is his “Organics” series, created in 2020. The “Organics” are formal explorations of the two-dimensional picture plane. Using his painters’ eye, Esquenazi creates three types of space in his work and weaves them into the painting and each other, akin to early 20th-Century Cubist experimentations of figure and ground.



The second series on view is Esquenazi’s “Duo” series, painted in 2019. In each painting in this series, there is a masculine and feminine figure, side by side. While the infrastructure is the same for each work, each painting riffs on different themes that are homages to iconic figurative paintings and deeply personal memories alike. Whether the initial inspiration is a painting by Fernand Léger or the last moments of his father-in-law’s life, they speak to the meaning of being alive and loved through an art-historical lens.


The third painting series on view is a group of recent self-portraits of Esquenazi with artists with whom he “communicates” with artistically while working in his studio. Inspired by the buddy-photograms of Jean-Michel Basquiat and Andy Warhol from the 1980s, Esquenazi has created “art-buddy” pictures that depict himself next to art world figures in funky, mid-century-live-television form.


Additionally, there is the large-scale, eponymous painting, “The Moment” on view. This emotionally charged work was created during the Covid-19 lockdown and places the artist’s personal memories of being near the twin towers on 9/11 and today’s Black Lives Matter movement in the context of other historical tragedies that have changed the world. In “The Moment,” Esquenazi ponders what it means to be a painter during this unprecedented time as we all try to figure out how we can create a more just society collectively. Esquenazi states: “There are times when we need to reassess ourselves and our place in the world to understand how we can use our voices to help others. My painting is my voice.”  


As a refugee at a young age himself, Esquenazi was born in Santiago de Cuba in 1961 but had to flee to Miami in 1966 with his family due to the rise of Communism in his native country. Esquenazi’s Cuban, Spanish-Sephardic, and American heritage greatly influenced his life and work. He began creating art intuitively at a young age. Like many artists, he was deeply attracted to New York City. In 1981, he moved to New York to study art at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. He graduated in 1984 and lived in Brooklyn until 1988. He spent most of his time in the burgeoning Lower East Side art scene, which enabled him to merge his formal training with the culture of the moment through studio painting and a street art practice.

Esquenazi is showing the paintings mentioned and others at the pop-up gallery “Art Room Across from MoMA” on 53rd Street, between 5th and 6th avenue.


An opening reception will be held at the pop-up gallery located at 20 West 53rd Street, NYC (across from MoMA); on Thursday 9/24/20 between 2:00-9:00 pm.

The show runs between September 1 through October 31, 2020


To schedule an appointment to see the show or for further inquiries please contact 914-953-7459 or benito@esquenazi.us.

Follow the artist @Atelier_Benito on Instagram to learn more about the artist and his practice.

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