Putting images to the test

Etienne Hatt

Jesús Alberto Benítez works with drawing, painting, photography and installation, but his œuvre’s common thread seems to be the forming of images. His photographs insist on how they came to be. They represent his studio, the tools and materials he uses. A recent series of photographs, Untitled (2018-19) shows us fragments of his computer screen, where the texture of the image appears as a digital file. His drawings are readily cursory: a few more or less spontaneous strokes that seem to want to combine to form an image. His paintings are often just the imprint of a gesture, as in covering or scraping. And his contribution to Thomas Fougeirol and Jo-ey Tang’s project entitled Dust : the Plates of the Present, acquired this year by Centre Pompidou, takes on the radical shape of photograms, where a simple fold in the paper, sometimes tapped against the enlarger, creates an image.

Art Press, n° 473, January 2020.  Complete text at Réseau-DDA.org

Abstraction and "reality": finding the appropriate sound

Joana Neves

Each image is a "next-to-nothing" pared-down even by the traditional standards of each practice: the drawn lines are elementary, the paint is often laid in manually, the assemblages follow no formal rule or principle of organic association of materials. And yet everything is calculated down to a hair's breadth: each mark is a thrust, a halt, a little curve: the paint explores the ridges of the board and the roughness of wood, steel, lead; the assemblages of potential folded surfaces are combined with, for example, blue adhesive tape – almost Klein blue, the colour that folded the existing spectrum and thus increased that world. It is this serenity, this confidence in the "next-to-nothing" that makes feasible this advance towards the elements of the oeuvre. It is true that the process of installing these sheets of paper and this adhesive tape on the wall had a temporal existence, a duration; and yet the photograph cannot be seen as a slice of life, for it is transformation, sedimentation, mark, vestige: something has been imprinted. The photograph seems to be playing the memory game: the thing itself is lost, but it becomes one with us. 

Excerpt from Abstraction and “reality”: finding the proper sound, a text by Joana Neves in Impulse of reversibility, Adera Editions, 2015

Surface Disorder 

Anne Bonnin

The way Benítez underscores and intensifies creative operations like montage and assemblage situates his works in the domain of the trial, the tryout, the fitting; an art like that of tacking, when the pieces of a garment are sewn together with visible white thread before the finishing process begins. Tacking, then, is the next-to-last stage; and this somewhat surprising dressmaking analogy sits well with an art that gives rise to sutures, to points of weakness that are the signs of work done, of the item in the process of construction/deconstruction. This is the merely apparent vulnerability of creations which, like the reed, bend with the wind that can topple the mighty oak. 

This undisguised fragility enables the artist to give a light, laid-back twist to a notion of construction/deconstruction that could easily have submitted to the artificiality, reversibility and disappearance of things. Transcending of contradictions, intensification, indecisiveness, oscillation, vibration, the art of nuance, the non-willingness to cling: these are some of the essential traits of Barthes's "neutral", which thwarts binary logic and leaves meaning hanging. There are countless affinities between the art of Jesús Alberto Benítez and the intense neutral to which Barthes devoted a course of lectures at the Collège de France. At work in that art is a principle of sensitivity to what is neglected, to what usually goes unheeded, to what, so to speak, we cannot see.  

Excerpt from Surface Disordera text by Anne Bonnin in Impulse of reversibility, Adera Editions, 2015

Florence Ostende

Jesús Alberto Benítez is greatly influenced by music, particularly by Death Metal and experimental electro-acoustic music. He thinks of photographs as different possible versions of the same piece of music, whence the importance of concrete activity in the studio as a constant means of assimilating outside contingencies and including production mistakes. He likes to imitate some of the effects of these, such as, for example, creased paper, wrinkles on the canvas, crushed fabric, traces of the scanner, and uneven margins. Using photosensitive paper is typical of his attention to the role of chance. He works with rolls of paper that have already been affected by the light, sometimes letting the paper deteriorate further in his studio. He also uses spray-paint as a material that 'projects' in the same indeterminate way. It escapes the control of the artist without defining a precise line. The importance of the material quality of his supports prevents any distinction between the object and the image. Wade Guyton, Walead Beshty, Sigmar Polke and photographs of sculptures by Constantin Brancusi are important references for Benitez. The ephemeral nature of the materials he uses has influenced his interpretation of Physics, in particular theories of the origins and constitution of matter and space-time. 

Press release for The Prairies, Rennes Biennial, 2012.

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