Claire Oliver Gallery extends solo exhibition of works by Leonardo Benzant

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Claire Oliver Gallery extends solo exhibition of works by Leonardo Benzant
Leonardo Benzant, Reliquary For The Black Boy Who Sits At The Window Dreaming (A Collection Of Conjurings And Letters), 2021, glass and ceramic beads, leather, fabric, acrylic paint and filament, 90 x 70 inches | 228.6 x 177.8 cm.

NEW YORK, NY.- Claire Oliver Gallery is presenting the artist Leonardo Benzant’s first solo presentation with the gallery, Across Seven Ruins & Redemptions Somo Kamarioka. Featuring six new multi-media works, including four large scale mixed media sculptures and two paintings on paper, Across Seven Ruins & Redemptions Somo Kamarioka is an extension of the artist’s multi-year exploration of his conception of the Urban Shaman, which Benzant deploys a wide variety of media and found objects to create dynamic hanging beaded structures inspired by the Yoruba and Kongo community and the beaded regalia of African material culture. The exhibition is open to the public November 11 through January 22, 2022.

“I am surrounded by the aftermath of slavery and colonialism and a people living in various stages of ruin and redemption,” states artist Leonardo Benzant. This series continues the mythology and origin story of a character I have created called the Urban Shaman. This character responds to the ongoing transformation of my own life from a boy growing up in some of the roughest neighborhoods in New York City and the self-destructive behaviors and trauma that resulted. The Urban Shaman represents an archetype that negotiates the shadows of these ruins and reflects a personal and collective struggle to find redemption. Each bead, each strand, each form wrapped and bound pulls from traditional African healing and spiritual practices.”

Benzant’s artistic practice is greatly inspired by the artist's connection to the African-Atlantic Diaspora and the various modes of communication he has studied and encountered in African-derived rituals. The body of work presented in Across Seven Ruins & Redemptions Somo Kamarioka comes out from a year of incredible transitions in the artist's life characterized by separations, from his initiation into an African diasporic religion known as “Regla de Ocha'' and his relocation to St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands. His recent oeuvre continues the mythology and original story of Urban Shaman, an alter-ego persona Leonardo has cultivated throughout the last years.

As an alias to the Urban Shaman, Somo Kamarioka is a creolized mixture of Spanish and Kikongo that loosely translates to “we are the chameleons.” Each bead, strand and form wrapped and bound pulls from traditional African healing and spiritual practices. Similar to the Central African tradition of nkisi, Benzant’s work is focused on giving power to objects created from repetitive, conjuring actions, and a series of rituals that pull together various energies and forces. On a material level the practice references the metamorphosis of the beads, string and fabric and from a spiritual level, each piece reflects on the adaptive survival strategies and transformations that occur- both personally and collectively - as humans navigate the systems of oppression. Regardless of the trauma and the violence, Across Seven Ruins & Redemptions Somo Kamarioka materializes a journey of hope, healing and self-determination that serves as the repository of the artist’s personal and collective life experiences.

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