Men Who Paint Flowers
“Yes, I value emotions deeply. Call me sensitive, call me weak, call me outdated, call me anything you may, but tell me the truth, can you deny emotions give life to life. If Emotions are an integral part of Being Human, Why do people suppress feeling them? Does the bruising scare them? Than I wonder who is weak?”
― Drishti Bablani, Wordions
Mindy Solomon is pleased to present Men Who Paint Flowers an exhibition that focuses on the relationship of men and non-binary artists to flowers- their use as a decorative device or metaphor for vulnerability and suburban decay. Whether portraying elaborate bouquets or still life imagery, the flower represents a symbol of sensitivity and love; a moment to pause and consider. Many of the images depicted in the exhibition have a dark countenance- is it because the flower represents weakness? Something a man is not supposed to experience.
Flowers given on a date symbolize love. Flowers presented at a milestone event represent accomplishment. Flowers at a hospital bedside encourage healing, and flowers at a funeral, empathy and sadness. Flowers in the garden encourage a moment to stop, admire and inhale. Expressions of ephemeral beauty. But why men painting flowers? Why does it really matter? Because as a society we do not know how to experience male sensitivity. We want it. We need it. But when we see it we demand a more masculine response. Is it possible to find a balance? Observationally, I appreciate a masculine perspective but what I really crave is a bouquet of flowers, and the sentiments that accompany it.
The show is divided into several categories- love, humor, decoration and dystopia. Artist Chase Barney utilizes satire in his work and writes: “As a Mormon youth born and raised in Utah, I was powerless against the religious fervor of the cultural landscape that surrounded me. To cope with this dominating atmosphere, I would reimagine Mormon sermons and their promises of a moral Utopia and escape into fantasies: bible stories, tales of righteous men conversing with angels, The Wizard of Oz on VHS, visits to the glitzy Las Vegas strip, and the sparkle of costumed men performing with tigers would be my salvation.
The conflict resulting from my present-day identity as a proud gay man and my past as an obedient Mormon create a tension that utopias are intended to lack. The façade of my work lures the viewer in with saturated color, subversive narratives, and humor. These elements overshadow the ominous undertones and unsettling sweetness in each scene, hinting at the unpleasantness beneath the gloss.”
Benjamin Cabral’s art practice is largely autobiographical and performative in nature. Everything he makes is either a self-portrait, either in a literal sense or through a distillation of a particular aspect of his life and memories. Through his painting he deconstructs and analyzes the formative years of his life from growing up within the homeschool evangelical community of his childhood participation with a mime performing arts group. These memories are reassembled it into an honest yet inherently fractured and unreliable portrait of who he is as a person. His botanical imagery mirrors the irreverence of his self-portrait works, both joyful and sad. Moises Salazar is a non- binary queer artist working with images of adornment and self-identity. They create images that are pleasing to the eye and proudly defiant. Whether posing provocatively, or sporting a cowboy hat, there is a tenderness that envelopes each figure. The viewer craves to touch and stroke the soft surfaces. Crochet, glitter and paint entice and evoke nature and celebration.
Philip Gerald is a comedic storyteller. He paints in a faux-naïf style that replicates the aesthetic of simplistic digital illustration. His irreverent paintings frequently allude to canonical works from art history, drawing on everything from Old Master still lifes to David Hockney’s iconic, sensually charged pool paintings. Using acrylic and airbrush paint, Gerald embraces a fluorescent palette that imbues his work with a joyful and childlike spirit. These colors emphasize the nostalgic undertones of his scenes, which evoke the heydays of clip art and Microsoft Paint. His floral imagery is abundant and silly. Shai Yehezkelli has a distinctly ironic perspective. Yehezkelli’s paintings often reflect a humorous irony. The kind of effect one experiences when receiving joyous news tinged with sorrow. Deeply mystical and gestural, some images feel like simple sketches while others are heavily impasto paintings with multiple layers. For this exhibition, his painting reflects a gentility and softness inspired by his new status as a father.
Famakan Magassa’s work displays a keen sense of observation for human behavior. Magassa maintains humor throughout, abstaining from moralism or denunciation. In his paintings, Magassa navigates between social satire and empathetic portrayals of his subjects, contending with themes ranging from cross-cultural pollination and environmentalism to addiction and loneliness.
His enigmatic, undulating figures are a direct reference to kourédougas – ritual dancers shrouded in secrecy. The kourédougas are members of a non-religious community that follow a code of conduct which emphasizes wisdom, righteousness, and humility. Externally, they can be identified by festive and extravagant outfits of hats, feathers, objects, and jewelry that are seemingly at odds with their measured guiding principles. His style of painting is perfectly suited to include floral imagery as a theme.
Thomas Bils paints an ongoing investigation of the mutability within truth and narrative. Reflecting from the absurdities accustomed to growing up in the suburban south during the beginning of the opioid crisis Thomas crafts autobiographical sceneries, carefully blurring the borders between truth and fiction. It is in these slippages of recollection he assumes his role as the unreliable narrator to develop an ambiguity in which viewer is engaged to consider where the fabrications occur in an attempt to grasp meaning and order. Clifton Childree grew up in a house filled with antiques, Childree notes that from a very early age, he appreciated objects that had a story, a life prior to now. His mother encouraged him to construct his own toys rather than buying him new ones, which sparked his interest in bricolage. Collecting found objects, guessing their story and repurposing them for his own use is a mindset he adopted. In Men Who Paint Flowers Childree incorporates the tradition of collecting broken, forgotten images, and interprets them in a new way adding Florida botanicals printed by hand from his garden. Childree falls in the tradition of post-war art movements of the twentieth century, such as the French art movement New Realism. Having started in the 1960s, the movement was guided by the works of Marcel Duchamp as well as other artists of Dadaism. Like Childree, Nouveau Realists liked to blur the lines between painting and object art.
Select artists have created works that have a decidedly decorative aspect calling to mind 18th century French Painter Jean-Baptiste- Siméon Chardin as well as the vibrant images of of Henri Matisse, and Chinese landscape painting. Ezra Johnson and Rick Leong reference the later perspectives.
Ezra Johnson writes: “I was first attracted to paint the lilies by their simple shape. The petal looks like a fun ramp to guide a loaded brush on. The Filament and Carpel add dimension, for a paint brush they are decorative lines protruding forward. The Anther and Stigma are like firecrackers of color, magically floating and comically dangling. The entire flower and its parts a suggest beauty and reproduction. The addition of the bulbus vase add an upward gesture that is then rounded and curved back around following the lines of the stems and leaves and again down along downward tipped petals in a circular flow. The vase and flowers are sitting on a circular table, a simple stage. The performance combines color with paint as material and energy. There are layers and the residue from previous layers. In the two paintings for Men Who Paint Flowers, “Red Lily” and “Lily with M. Avery Book” I included a simple rectangle phone glowing with an image of a closely cropped face. I was inspired to paint a juxtaposition between these very different representations; the energy of color, pattern and texture with the photographic and technological.”
Rick Leong uses landscape as a foundation in his painting and drawing practice to investigate ecologies of identity, spirituality, and environment. As a Chinese- Canadian his mixed heritage has led to an interest in the interaction between eastern and western ideologies within painting. There is a strong correlation between Chinese and Canadian painting traditions through the subject of the landscape. Within the precepts of the classical Chinese landscape tradition there is the pursuit of a psychological and emotional utopia, and within Canada the landscape painting tradition is the recording and dissemination of the utopic new world in the formation of identity. He has explored this relationship by applying the methodologies and aesthetic developed in Chinese landscape painting to his personal experiences of the Canadian vista. A fundamental aspect of his creative process has been to work primarily from memory, and to invent and imagine the elements of the landscape that he does not recall accurately. This has led to the development of landscape constructs that are more informed and inspired by reality than a document of it. His paintings are manifestations of his experiences of being-in-the-world through the language of the landscape, creating a hybrid vigour of magical realism, neo-Romanticism and Daoist philosophy.
Richard Wathen’s paintings evoke early American portraiture and 18th Century British Primitivism. His fictional portraits invite ambiguity. The figures in his work seem fragile, lost in contemplation, without expression or feeling, their age and gender often uncertain. The image on view in the exhibition suggest a moment of consideration- the delicate flower a thing of ephemeral beauty to be blown away at any moment. Jose Manuel Mesias and Taichi Nakamura both create dystopian environments within their work where nature appears scarred and forgotten.
Jose Manuel Mesias is a Cuban artist who has traditionally focused on history, dream imagery and mythology. His work in Men Who Paint Flowers carries on that spirit of contemplation. Through detailed observation of objects, spaces, and people close to his daily life in Old Havana, Mesías looks for a passageway through the “thick tissue” of the “real world” expressing his disturbing and disquieting inner monologue. The integration of the decaying beauty of nature and deterioration of his urban environment inspire him to create psychologically charged
Taichi Nakamura creates figurative works in oil on canvas and watercolour as well as mixed media in which he freely adds strokes on top of magazine cuttings and other collage materials. Symbolism and metaphor are prevalent in all his imagery, consistently expressing his complex feelings towards humans who have deviated from the natural order of things in ways that are not so wholesome. Created under the veil of the childlike purity of painting, Nakamura’s work hides a harsh critical spirit. The colorful paintings seem at first glance to depict scenes from a fairy tale, but a closer look at the details reveal that the landscapes depicted are by no means idyllic rural scenes. Black-smoking chimneys, countless abandoned old buildings and desolate landscapes are symbols of destruction. His newfound interest in nature has led him to investigate mythology and spirituality.
Argentinian artist Alejandro Pasquale has created a symbolically charged work for the exhibition that features a skull, flowers and a serpent. Drawing from art historical tropes, such as the use of a Renassiance style landscape that depicts the background as a vast geographical landmass with deeply receding spaces, the artist succeeds in bringing startling dimensionality to his work. Pasquale states: “My work has the intention and need to constantly remind us that, despite the fact that we often overlook it, we are a horizontal part of the great network of living beings that inhabit this planet. We belong, until the day we allow ourselves, to this immense and magical nature. We are nature.”
Reconning with nature as an essential element of who we are as human beings, Men Who Paint Flowers showcases the shared humanity in all of us.
About the Artists
Alejandro Pasquale was born in Buenos Aires in 1984. He started to study fine Arts in 2002 at the National Institute of Art (IUNA). In 2004 he decided to quit and continue as a self-taught artist, reinforcing his acknowledgements with courses given by local artists. Some of these courses are “A toolbox” dictated by Eduardo Stupía (Universidad Torcuato Di Tella, 2012 and 2013).
Some of the galleries that Alejandro has been working with are: Beinart Gallery (Melbourn, Australia), Victor Lope Gallery (Barcelona, España) Quimera Gallery (Buenos Aires, Argentina), Stone Sparrow (New York, U.S.A.), Daniel Raphael Gallery (London, U.K).
Benjamin Cabral is a multidisciplinary artist splitting his time between studios in San Diego and Chicago. His work has been shown internationally and throughout the United States. Recent exhibitions include a solo show at Steve Turner, LA and a solo exhibition at Allouche Benias Gallery in Athens Greece. Benjamin’s work was selected for a public sculpture commission by the City of San Diego’s Arts District. A painter by training, but a crafter at heart. Benjamin completed his MFA at The School of The Art Institute of Chicago and is the winner of the 2019 Carrie Ellen Tuttle Fellowship.
Chase Barney (b. 1984) is originally from Salt Lake City, UT, he currently lives and works in Chicago, IL. Barney graduated with a BFA from the University of Minnesota in 2019 and earned his MFA from The School of the Art Institute in 2022. Barney has exhibited across the United States and received numerous grants and scholarships in support of his work.
Clifton Childree Clifton Childree is an artist and filmmaker who lives and works in Miami, Florida. Childree has exhibited both nationally and internationally, including the Brot Kunsthalle, Vienna; Kunsthalle Wien, Vienna; and Miami Art Museum, Bas Fisher Invitational, and Locust Projects in Miami, Florida. He is represented by Emerson Dorsch.
Ezra Johnson is a painter based in Tampa, Florida. Born in 1975 in Wenatchee, Washington. He received an MFA from Hunter College in New York in 2006 and a BFA from California College of the Arts in San Francisco in 2000. Johnson’s painting practice often expands into animation and sculpture. Interested in experimenting with color, form and surface his work takes a playful, energetic approach to serious subject matter.
Johnson has exhibited at many prestigious museums such as the Nerman Museum of Art in Kansas, the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, the Site Santa Fe Biennial, the ICA in Philadelphia, as well as gallery exhibitions, nationally and internationally. Johnson is represented by Freight + Volume Gallery in New York and Mindy Solomon Gallery in Miami. Johnson is an Associate Professor of Painting and Drawing at the University of South Florida.
Famakan Magassa exhibited for the first time in 2019 with several institutional shows, including presentations at L’Institute Français du Mali and La Fondation La Maison de l’Artiste in Assinie, Côte d’Ivoire. In 2020, he was included in ‘L’exposition collective Jeunes Talents’ at the residence of the Ambassador to the European Union, Mali and was one of the 2020 Laureates of the Cité Internationale des Arts Residency in Paris, France. He presented his first solo show in the United States with albertz benda in 2022.
José Manuel Mesías (Havana, Cuba, 1990) graduated from the National Academy of Fine Arts “San Alejandro” in Havana in 2009. He currently lives and works in Havana. He has obtained residency scholarships in Japan, sponsored by the Akita Art Institute (2018); in Bilbao, Spain, as part of the Azkuna Zentroa – Artist x Artist Residency Program (2017); in Colombia, from the exchange project between the Instituto Superior de Arte and the Universidad de los Andes (2013), among others.
Among his main solo exhibitions we mention: Sala del Tiempo, a project presented as part of the official program of the 13th Havana Biennial, at Centro de Desarrollo de las Artes Visuales (2019); Sinsontes en perseverancia, a happening held at Calle Bernal y Águila, Havana (2019); Metáfora del crepúsculo árabe, Art Dubai, as a result of the residency period in the United Arab Emirates (2019); Image Index, Factoría Habana, Havana (2017); Acerca de la verdad absoluta and The Binary Show, Mindy Solomon Gallery (2016, 2015); El origen de la simetría, Centro Provincial de Artes Plásticas y Diseño Luz y Oficios, Havana (2012).
Moises Salazar is a non-binary artist based in Chicago, Illinois. Salazar holds a BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Salazar’s work has been exhibited nationally and internationally at WOAW Gallery, Salon ACME 8, the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, NADA, National Museum of Mexican Art, and the Chicago Cultural Center. Represented by Mindy Solomon Gallery Salazar had their inaugural solo exhibition in August 2021.
Philip Gerald paints in a faux-naïf style that replicates the aesthetic of simplistic digital illustration. His irreverent paintings frequently allude to canonical works from art history, drawing on everything from Old Master still lifes to David Hockney’s iconic, sensually charged pool paintings. Using acrylic and airbrush paint, Gerald embraces a fluorescent palette that imbues his work with a joyful and childlike spirit. These colors emphasize the nostalgic undertones of his scenes, which evoke the heydays of clip art and Microsoft Paint. Gerald explores the dichotomy of digital and material art and their associated or perceived values in his practice. In addition to paintings, he also creates videos that parody the whims of the art world and art market. He has exhibited in Paris, Amsterdam, and New York City.
Richard Wathen is a British painter born in 1971. He lives in Norfolk in England. Wathen graduated with a BA in Fine Art Painting from Winchester School of Art in 1995 and received an MA in Fine Art from the Chelsea School of Art in 1996.
Rick Leong is a west-coast artist that uses the language of the landscape to reflect on the ways that we move through and inhabit the landscapes we dwell within, and to explore how we connect to urban and wild ecologies. Drawn from observation and influenced by traditional Chinese art forms and methodologies, Leong’s work investigates the interconnectedness of the land with the subjectivity of human experience. Leong obtained his MFA from Concordia University (Montréal, 2007), and his work was acquired by the Montréal Museum of Fine Arts. He has exhibited his work at the National Gallery of Canada (Ottawa), the Power Plant (Toronto) and the Contemporary Art Gallery (Vancouver). In addition to having participated in many group exhibitions at various Canadian and international spaces, Leong has exhibited solo at Two Rivers Gallery (Prince George), Anna Leonowens Gallery (Halifax), and the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria. Recent exhibitions include Arsenal Contemporary (New York), Bradley Ertaskiran (Montréal), Phi Foundation (Montréal), and the Esker Foundation (Calgary).
Shai Yehezkelli was born in Israel, and earned his BFA Degree with Highest Honor (”Summa Cum Laude”) from Bezalel Academy of Art and Design Jerusalem (2006), and his MFA from the Bezalel Academy, Tel Aviv (2010).
He was awarded The Rappaport award for a young artist (2015), the “Bank Leumi Prize for Outstanding Academic Achievements” and the “Arieli” prize in 2006 and received a grant from The Israeli lottery Culture-Council in 2014. Yehezkelli has exhibited solo shows and has been in group shows in US, UK, Germany and in Israel.
Nakamura Taichi creates figurative works in oil on canvas and watercolour as well as mixed media works in which he freely adds strokes with acrylic and other paints on top of magazine cuttings and other materials. Symbols and metaphors are used in all his works, consistently expressing his complex feelings towards humans who have deviated from the natural order of things and progressed.
Under the veil of childlike purity of painting, Nakamura Taichi’s work hides a harsh critical spirit. The colourful paintings seem at first glance to depict scenes from a fairy tale, but a closer look at the details reveals that the landscapes depicted are by no means idyllic rural scenes. Black-smoking chimneys, countless abandoned old tyres and desolate land are symbols of destruction. In recent years, the artist’s deep reverence for nature has led to an interest in faith and mythology.
Thomas Bils (b. 1993) lives in Miami, FL. He received his BFA from New World School of The Arts. Bils has had recent group exhibitions at the Coral Gables Museum – Coral Gables, FL; Mindy Solomon Gallery – Miami, FL; and Top Painters Top Painting – Online; as well as a solo exhibition at the NSU Art Museum – Ft. Lauderdale, FL. Bils’s work has been reviewed online and in print, including in New American Paintings and the International Painting Annual 10 (Manifest Press), among others. He is a 2018 to current resident of Bakehouse Art Complex – Miami, FL; as well as having attended residencies at Anderson Ranch ¬– Snowmass, CO; and Void Projects – Miami, FL.