Paul Stephen Benjamin: God Bless America
September 17 to October 29
opening reception: Saturday, September 17 at 6pm
Paul Stephen Benjamin, in this most recent iteration of God Bless America, very directly speaks to the complex problem of patriotism for many African Americans who, despite years of progress for civil rights, are presently caught in the cross-hairs of a seemingly purposeful war against them.
Comprising four video monitors broadcasting video samples of the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, singing the phrase “God Bless America, My Home Sweet Home,” and accompanied by the back-up vocals of Lil Wayne, the installation supports another sixty-five monitors that display strobing or flickering red, white and blue lights arranged into three ziggurats filling the gallery space.
Benjamin, who has been producing works addressing themes of blackness for 20+ years, eschews any kind of polemical interpretation of the work. His elegant, visually economical towers of lights surround the central figures. Repetition of form and phrase pare the work to its essential elements. Taken as a whole, God Bless America can be viewed as a kind of altar, a chapel, a prayer, a wish. Can African American communities withstand the actions of a police state? Will America make good on the promise the song suggests? Can this country be a home for our pluralistic society? In our present election season, so filed with words, images and actions of rancor, racism, and violence, will the outcome support anyone’s allegiance? I am very pleased to have these questions brought forth in such a timely way through Paul’s provocative work here at Poem 88.
— Robin Bernat, Sept 2016
This exhibition is in conjunction with ATLANTA CELEBRATES PHOTOGRAPHY.
Benjamin was the recipient of an ARTADIA award in 2014. Feb-April 2016 Benjamin exhibited his solo exhibition Come Over at The Mayors Office of Cultural Affairs Gallery 72 in downtown Atlanta, GA. His work has been on exhibit at the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center in the Exquisite Corpse and the Coloring exhibitions. He was also featured in the group exhibition Emerging Artist Award Winners 15th Year Retrospective Exhibition at The Swan Coach House. Among his awards to date are the Winnie B. Chandler Fellowship, Diasporal Rhythms Artists Recognition Award, Hambidge Fellowship, The Atlanta Contemporary Art Center Studio Program and the Forward Arts Emerging Artists Award. Congratulations to Poem 88 artist Paul Stephen Benjamin, recent recipient of a Working Artist Project Fellowship (2017) at The Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia (MOCA-Ga).