Paul Stephen Benjamin
January 22 - April 17, 2022
“If the color black had a sound, what would it be?” This is one of many questions that conceptual artist Paul Stephen Benjamin explores in his multidisciplinary art practice. Through sights, sounds, and material, Benjamin explores the color black as a way to introduce and discuss different social perspectives. While visually understated, his work serves as an introduction to a broader and multifaceted conversation about race and identity. Benjamin states, “I work hard to make sure my work is not in your face,” noting that this aesthetic subtlety lends itself to a more critical and analytical approach to viewing his work.
“Oh Say” (Remix) is a video installation that presents a compilation of various African American artists and their performances of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Featured artists include Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Wonder, and Beyoncé, with performances that range from music festivals to sporting events. The performers are arranged in conjunction with imagery of the American flag and the faces of American presidents. The work blends past and present histories, bringing these timelines into the context of today. “Oh Say” (Remix) examines the complexities and nuances of racial identity in America, allowing Paul Stephen Benjamin’s depiction of blackness to present itself introspectively.
There is a visual and sonic power that is carried throughout the duration of “Oh Say” (Remix). Each scene is dense with visual information, rendered in black and white. The auditory factor of the work grounds its narrative through the repetition and rhythmic pacing of each audio track. Each track builds and builds until it creates a haunting symphony of sound. These elements act as a compression of time and space, allowing multiple histories to speak simultaneously.