Teach Me Tonight: Ana Benaroya's Cigarettes and Major Minors @ Richard Heller Gallery
Last Saturday night, in the midst of Frieze Week in Los Angeles this week, we went to see the stunning new show by Ana Benaroya, Teach Me Tonight, on view at Richard Heller Gallery in Santa Monica. As we have something we are very excited to announce with Benaroya in the coming weeks, this show was a top priority for us to check out. What caught us was the scale of the works, as they are almost life-sized, the characters taken over the room in ways that is unique and almost fantastical (you can see in the installation images above). Ana wrote an essay for the show, that we would like to share below...
This series of paintings began with a painting I made a year ago of two women playing one piano together, Sonata in Major Minor. The piano opened up my understanding of paint and also allowed me to bring my love of music and its influence on me as an artist into my painting directly. The piano also served as this object that was a point of emotional connection between two women. It was a physical object that was a bridge between them but also created something invisible within the painting: a song.
Later this past summer I re-watched Casablanca at the recommendation of my friend Morgan (whose essay appears in the catalog for this exhibition). This movie and Rick’s Cafe became a source of inspiration for Teach Me Tonight. I decided I would create this imaginary cafe where women come to meet, play and listen to music, smoke, and dance. I wanted the cafe to be both of the past and the future, a history I wish I had, or a history I do have and have yet to uncover. The cafe is both specific and surreal, similar to a dream that is tangible and yet constantly changing.
The imaginary is central to my work as an artist and to this show. As I define it, the imaginary is what lives in between the world and our minds. To me, the imaginary is what allows those at the fringes of society to trace their stories and desires onto a world where they remain invisible. In this in-between space, I was able to imagine the place of the cafe: a place of longing and desire, a place of the past and simultaneously a place I hope exists in the future.
In this show, lesbian desire is both explicit and hidden. Cue the music! It’s about listening to a woman singing a song and pretending she’s singing to another woman. It’s about watching a movie and placing yourself in the role of the male lead, imagining yourself seducing the female lead. It’s about tracing yourself along the lines of what exists in the world and re-writing the story to your liking. The imaginary allows for this translation to be possible. Suddenly you are able to see yourself where you are not and imagine a future where you are not invisible.
These paintings are the beginning of my exploration into this imaginary cafe and into these undiscovered pasts and possible futures. This cafe never closes, the music never stops, the smoke always fills the air, and your favorite drink sits waiting for you at the bar. —Ana Benaroya
Teach Me Tonight will be on view at Richard Heller Gallery through March 28, 2020.