Beniah Leuschke find their Wit’s End.
THE RE S A BE MBNI S T E R
IN THEIR OWN WORDS
Archie Scott Gobber and
rchie Scott Gobber and Beniah Leuschke make art with words. With their oversized, hard-edged letters painted on canvas with enamel, Gobber’s works resemble signs, but the messages they spell out are rarely straightforward. Leuschke also uses words as raw conceptual material, and his practices include cutting letters out of security envelopes or printing them on Sentra or vinyl. Both arrange text in ways designed to spark unexpected inferences and generate new meanings. The Pitch asked the two artists, along with guest curator James Martin, to talk about At Wit’s End, their intriguing and sometimes cryptic exhibition at the Epsten Gallery. The Pitch: Why pair your work for an exhibition? Gobber: Beniah and I both maintained studios just down the hall from each other at the Studios Inc. facility [formerly Review Studios], so we had interactions over a fiveyear period regarding our work and the similarities. Beniah once said to me, “You take half the dictionary and leave me the other.” This seemed confrontational to me at the time because I didn’t think our work was that similar. The obvious reasons to pair our work are, we both deal in text and language and the ambiguities therein; we both have a high level of craft in our work; we both, in different and similar ways, have a sense of game play in our work; and we both rely on wit, context and conceptual ideas. Leuschke: I’ve known Scottie for many years. We’ve exhibited together in a number of shows and have always had a rapport. I appreciate his sense of humor, work ethic and process, and I feel like we are confronting a very similar type of problem in very different ways.
What appeals to you about working with painting of the words “I’ve got troubles of words? my own,” where the word trouble is superGobber: Words are something that we all imposed over [the word] triumphs. This is an see as precise, but often they are not. They idea I’ve been kicking about for a few years, the notion that appreciating a work of art is can be twisted in intent and taken from conup to the viewer. It sounds like “no kidding, text — as in media or trying to decipher the intent behind, say, a text message. They can duh.” But when you are trained like I am, working with contemporary art, the main be taken from their original meaning or void of a voice with inflection. They mean differ- criteria seems to be whether or not this work is well-made or if it makes sense in terms of ent things to different people and they can create a visual in the mind of the reader. what the artist thinks his or her goals are. At some point, I realized that content does Beyond that, I just love painting letters — the shapes, the styles. They are architectural matter to me, and it’s up to me to decide symbols that, when put together, can say what I think about that content. There’s an art collection in town that, at powerful things. Leuschke: There is something seductively fi rst glance, has what many people would think to be distressing images: individuals simple and accessible about language. It’s who are ill or in distress, skeletons, refersomething that we all have in common. ences to death or industrial decay. I was I’m fascinated by how quickly words can go haywire. There are multiple messages doing some work on this collection and recognized that if I was going to fi nd any value competing for our attention embedded in the things that we write and speak. William in it, I was going to have to create my own value. That’s what led me Teague said, “Nothing is to that perspective, along so simple that it can’t be At Wit’s End: with reading postmodern misunderstood.” The misBeniah Leuschke & theory in graduate school. understanding frequently Archie Scott Gobber Archie, the words in your creates a hilarious tension Through January 6, at work in this exhibition seem and a parallel meaning that Epsten Gallery, the Kansas less legible and more designcreates a wonderful field for City Jewish Museum of intensive. What does this improvisation. Contemporary Art, 5500 West 123rd Street, show tell us about where James, your exhibition Overland Park, your work is on its evoluessay centers on the idea 913-266-8413, kcjmca.org tionary path right now? that, as viewers, we can choose to focus on positive Gobber: I think that in interpretations of artwork. this body of work, I was Why did you decide to discuss Leuschke’s and trying to get away from the sign look that I Gobber’s works from that perspective? rely on heavily — advertising, billboards, etc. Martin: A couple years ago, I had a studio — and make paintings. Not to say that my visit with Scott, and we talked about this signlike work isn’t painting, but to really be a painter. I think the design element stems very topic of looking and thinking about from that. I have been making work that is art in a positive or optimistic way. He has a
From left: “Image” by Archie Scott Gobber; “The words of every song” by Beniah Leuschke; “Godseyes” by Gobber more visually engaging, beyond just the reading, making them more difficult to decipher. The end messages in the work in this show are more broad-based, not so specific as, say, politics or some current catchphrase. As far as the evolutionary path, I see continuing along with the more painterly, design-intensive work, but I also see staying with a more signlike look for work that happens quickly and has a very current message. Beniah, you use junk e-mails as a background graphic for some of your works. Why did you make that choice? Leuschke: Junk e-mail is a character in our background — it’s something that we take for granted. I’m fascinated by the junk e-mail as a clunky solicitation, scam and awkward search-engine debris. There’s something humorous and approximate about how they’re constructed. They seem like sentences made entirely from scrap parts. They’re insidious and sly but also absurd and endearing. I use them as a visual shortcut, an ignoble placeholder for an image, to call into question the convention of a painting on a wall, to examine the relationship of language and idea, and potentially make the viewer temporarily suspicious of all the words that we see every day.
Editor’s note: Theresa Bembnister this month received the Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition’s 2012 Oklahoma Art Writing and Curatorial Fellowship Achievement in Writing award. E-mail email@example.com
D E C E M pitch.com B E R 2 7, 2 0 1M 2O - JNATNHU A Y 2X, , 2200103 X T TH HE E P PI IT TC CHH 191 X RX–X
The Pitch, December 27, 2012-January 2, 2013. Kansas City's Alternative Weekly a year in review. Cover by Jeff Drew.