M. Benjamin Herndon: andforththroughthemistamountainameadow

April 30, 2023 - July 9, 2023

Reception: Sunday, April 30, 2023, 12PM-4PM

“...where darkness and light arise mutually from a single material and are thus inherently inseparable.”

M. Benjamin Herndon: andforththroughthemistamountainameadow

Emerson Dorsch Gallery is pleased to announce our representation of M. Benjamin Herndon.

His first solo exhibition for the gallery, andforththroughthemistamountainameadow, will be on view April 30th through July 9th, 2023. We will present a selection of recent paintings, whose dark gradients are wrought in many layers of emulsified graphite.

M. Benjamin Herndon enjoys the state of searching brought about by a string of words without spaces. Deciphering a stream of letters demands focus and time. The difficulty in reading the words might be a good way to concentrate on the ideas that the words are trying to impart.

“There is an analog,” with his paintings, Herndon observed, “where darkness and light arise mutually from a single material and are thus inherently inseparable.” He connects this state of searching with the Japanese concept of yugen, “that particular type of mysterious beauty found in opacity and the not-quite-grasping.”

Earlier this year, referring to the exhibition’s eponymous painting, Herndon wrote:

“Around this time, eight years ago, I had the immense pleasure of beholding the real Mt. Fuji in Japan. I could not see the mountain, not at all, as it was clouded in a dense dawn mist, but I knew exactly where it was. Its presence was only in my mind, as real as could be.

Today, on my way to California to visit family, I flew over my childhood home, Meadow Valley, in the Sierra Nevada mountains. While below a dense mist of clouds, I knew exactly where that snowy meadow was.”

Herndon’s dark paintings seem Minimalist, but he is careful to articulate how they are in fact the opposite. The bright forms that radiate from darkness in his compositions are the same color and material as their surrounding deep shadow. He makes his paint from scratch, essentially an emulsion of oil and alkyd pigmented with graphite, applied in scores of layers and selectively polished. That is to say, both the dark and bright fields are made from a proprietary graphite mixture. The bright areas have been finished differently, such that the texture, and the angles of ambient light reflecting off of it, helps us to see light in the dark.

He writes that the “graphite surface has a certain familiarity but it also carries an enigmatic quality, which I count as a good thing. The paintings, while dimensionally flat, are inherently sculptural: movement of the viewer’s body and seeing the work in space is essential. To experience the work is a uniquely physical matter.”

On his extraordinarily laborious process, he continues: “For me, the process is simultaneously not at all important and all-important: the process serves as a means to achieve a surface that interests me.” In other words, the process is the ground whose material is no different than the forms it seems to surround. There is no form possible without the surroundings’ material, and neither is possible without the process.


Visit by Appointment

Due to COVID-19, we are open by appointment. The gallery will follow social distancing protocol and allow only a certain number of visitors per appointment.