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Ben Sanders at Ochi Projects
December 5, 2020 - January 30, 2021
At Ochi Projects in Mid-City, Ben Sanders’ colorful paintings make a vibrant statement. Flowers splash across the graphic and airbrushed works, petals and stems coiling into complex configurations. Sanders’ graphic style recalls Memphis design (think Peter Shire) or perhaps a beachy tropical shirt from the 1980s — he’s not afraid to playfully arrange colors and pattern to create ecstatic compositions, all while maintaining razor-sharp edges and seamless gradients.
While delighting in these details, the symbology of the work begins to softly emerge: razor blades are echoed throughout the show, often intertwined with the delicate stems of a flower; skulls appear often, sometimes guzzling liquids from the flower’s plump stems. The flowers too are specific — while the show is titled “Poppies,” many of the works are titled “Opium Poppy.” In the symmetrical “Opium Poppy with Supplicants,” two cartoonish skulls splay their tongues out to lick a black sap that oozes from a central poppy flower, eyes rolled back in ecstasy — or death. Here, Sanders’ vibrant style clashes up against a deeper undertone, situated somewhere between psychedelia, fantasy, magic, and death — these symbols float across the show like omens or signals, pointing to some kind of prophecy.
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Photo: Ben Sanders, “Opium Poppies with Razor Blades,” 2020. Image courtesy of the artist and Ochi Projects.