HOTBOX DEVOTION, Ben Blatt @ Half Gallery

Blatt’s intricate watercolor paintings focus on enclosures set into abandoned piazzas, rigorously rendered with twisting, virtuosic detail. Outcropping bell jars, fountains, terrariums, monuments, and medallions serve as incubators for lush, botanical worlds in which the artist cultivates a psycho-suggestive bounty. Within these containers, Blatt explores notions of un/natural paradox: overturned, architectural constructions spill water on teeming plant life; leaves unfold to receive crystalline forms; water is both frozen and flowing; veins (or vines?) crawl through stone; mountain ranges plot like ant hills. Life overgrows life in an endless cycle of death and rebirth.

Employing the patient medium of watercolor, Blatt refocuses the idyllic art-historical movements of Rococo, Symbolism, Wunderkammen, and Romanticism through a contemporary lens: shifts in CMYK (a color printing model) suggest digital erratum, psychedelia flutters about, and cracked color fields abut cobblestones harvested from microscopic electron scans.

Entangled deep within this world of copious, visual delight is the fear of floodgates burst wide. Taken, a particularly bucolic scene, offers a pendant dangling amidst radiant autumn vines. Framed beneath a double bust of a woman is the carnivorous flower of death know as rafflesia, which just happens to reek like rotting flesh.

Ben Blatt lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. He received his BFA in 2001 from the Rhode Island School of Design. His work has since been included in group exhibitions at White Columns, Bellwether Gallery, Feigen Contemporary (all New York, NY), and John Michael Kohler Art Center, Sheboygan, WI.

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