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Work Samples

Against Weather

Partial view of Against Weather, a solo project that encompassed the entire space of the Common Ground Gallery in VisArts at Rockville. The entire installation was improvised on site over a three-week period using salvaged materials.

no trap/no treasure (excerpt)

Cast tinted hydrocal with copper element, drawing, floor painting. This was part of an installation completed during my stay at the Vermaont Studio Center in 2017.

your ancient see through ways

Oil on panel, 2017, 10 in. x 10 in. One of a large, ongoing series of small paintings developed in parallel to my installation/sculptural practice.

room made of taken-away (nesting studies)

Partial view of a sculptural installation, improvised on-site at Baltimore's historic Peale Center, which was undergoing renovation at the time of the exhibition. Certain key elements were created using material salvaged from the building itself, supplemented with ephemera from my studio.

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About Ben

Baltimore City - Station North A&E District

Ben Piwowar is a Baltimore-based artist whose practice combines painting, drawing, and site-resposive installation. His work uses abstraction and material play to reflect on fragility, adaptation, and regeneration. He received an MFA in studio art from the University of Connecticut in 2011 and holds undergraduate degrees in painting and literature from the University of Maryland. Notable recent exhibitions include shows at Artspace New Haven (CT), the Rice Gallery at... more

Sculpture/Installation, 2017 (Vermont Studio Center)

This project highlights work I made at the Vermont Studio Center residency in November 2017. Within the space of this studio, I completed two sculptural installations (no trap/no treasure and Agnes Gin Nap) alongside a series of paintings and small works on paper.

While my efforts at VSC were, in many ways, an organic progression from my previous installation work, a few new wrinkles came into focus. Cast objects begin to play a more central role. I also became more conscious of the impact of light; my decisions were inflected by two distinct types of cool, diffuse illumination—reflected winter light during daytime, fluorescent tubes at night. Perhaps most significantly, I was compelled to examine the relationship between my 3-D practice and my paintings more directly than I had in the past; since my working space doubled as an ad hoc exhibition space (for purposes of studio visits and documentation), I was able to see how my different processes overlap visually and conceptually.

  • no trap/no treasure

    Detail view. Wood, drawing, thread, paint.
  • no trap/no treasure

    Installation with salvaged wood and metal, cast hydrocal objects,drawings,on-site painting. Vermont Studio Center, 2017.
  • no trap/no treasure

    Detail view. Tinted cast hydrocal with embedded copper piece, graphite drawing, floor painting. 2017.
  • no trap/no treasure

    Detail view. Drawing impaled on metal-tipped wood dowel inserted into pillar. 2017.
  • no trap/no treasure

    Partial view of installation, with salvaged wood and metal, cast hydrocal objects,drawings,on-site painting.
  • no trap/no treasure

    Detail view. Tinted hydrocal with embedded steel, drawing fragments, floor painting.
  • no trap/no treasure

    Alternate installation view. The character of this installation changed depending on the viewer's position and perception of relative scale. In this image it nearly dissolves into a delicatel spatial drawing, while from other perspectives it becomes more animated, populated by more assertive sculptural statements and applied color.
  • Agnes Gin Nap

    Tinted hydrocal object with nail, inked packing envelope fragment, black palm cuttings, two small drawings, painting on panel, window. 2017.
  • Agnes Gin Nap (detail)

    Detail view of Agnes Gin Nap installation. Tinted hydrocal object with nail, inked packing envelope fragment, black palm cuttings, two small drawings, painting on panel, window. 2017.
  • installation view of paintings completed at Vermont Studio Center

    Arrangement of paintings and drawings that were made and shown in the same space as "no trap/no treasure" and "Agnes Gin Nap" installations.

Paper 2017-2018

A selection of recent works on paper.

I'm continually producing small drawings as I move between my sculptural and painting practices. Some function as fragments that function in relation to other materials and gestures in my installations; some identify more as objects than as images; some are just drawings.

The first two images below are examples of pieces that use the drawings to enact subtle spatial/material play. The rest of the images in this project are excerpts from soft obstacle— an ongoing, ever-expanding, and ambiguously-affiliated body of small-scale drawings. While the soft obstacle drawings can function as stand-alone statements, I;m more interested in how they attain presence through accretion—as swarms and constellations— rather than as isolated visual incidents.

Recent Paintings I

Paintings completed 2017-2018.

My recent paintings were made parallel to the sculptural installation (which itself emerged as an extension/mutation of an earlier painting practice) that is more heavily repreented in my portfolio. These bodies of work are distinct but not disparate, informing each other even though they rarely overlap in public. I tend to resolve paintings through acts of correction, mindful defacement, and partial deletion of information, all in the hope of creating a re-charged sense of presence.My sculptural work has taught me to favor the moments in the painting process where the paint’s materiality asserts itself, where the painting’s surface begins to register as both the site of an image and as an index of events. Likewise, my engagement with physical, architectural space is rooted in my sensibility as a painter, where I apply similar strategies the more pliable, fictive space of the abstract image.

Sculpture/ Installation, 2017

Room made of taken away (nesting studies) is an installation that was made for Birdland and the Anthropocene, a group exhibition organized around the theme of extinction at the Peale Center in Baltimore, curated by Lynne Parks.

This installation expands on my previous "Nesting Studies" (represented below). For this ongoing body of work, I frame my intuitive and playful process in the context of the survival strategies of migrating bird populations as they contend with, and adapt to, climate change and inhospitable urban environments.

(Title borrowed from "God of Rooms" by Jean Valentine)

The second work represented here is that giant urge to hover, an installation completed for the 2017 Trawick Prize exhibition.

Against Weather (2016)

Solo exhibition at VisArts Rockville (Common Ground Gallery), winter 2016. For this exhibition I created a temporary installation encompassing the entire gallery space. I populated the room with objects, drawings, and sculptural gestures over a period of roughly three weeks. The piece was improvised in the gallery with minimal preparation in my home studio, using a wide range of construction detritus collected over the past three years.

Total dimensions of installation: 10 ft. (h) x 13 ft. (w) x 16 ft. (h)

Recent Paintings 2014-2016

Paintings completed 2014-2016.

My recent paintings were made parallel to the sculptural installation (which itself emerged as an extension/mutation of an earlier painting practice) that is more heavily repreented in my portfolio. These bodies of work are distinct but not disparate, informing each other even though they rarely overlap in public. I tend to resolve paintings through acts of correction, mindful defacement, and partial deletion of information, all in the hope of creating a re-charged sense of presence.My sculptural work has taught me to favor the moments in the painting process where the paint’s materiality asserts itself, where the painting’s surface begins to register as both the site of an image and as an index of events. Likewise, my engagement with physical, architectural space is rooted in my sensibility as a painter, where I apply similar strategies the more pliable, fictive space of the abstract image.

Sculpture/Installation 2014-2015

Selected works completed in 2014 and 2015.

My artistic practice is a hybrid of drawing, object manipulation, and site-responsive construction. Through these overlapping activities I engage with a variety of salvaged materials. I choose to work with things that are marked or shaped by prior use—contractors’ trash, unfinished drawings, detritus found on walks, leavings of other people’s projects. These materials are minimally modified in the studio before they are brought to the exhibition space, where relationships between fragmentary components are developed on-site through intuitive arrangement and re-orientation.

The objects that populate my installations function like displaced characters or invasive organisms learning to survive in new territory; in negotiating both their individual presences and a cumulative identity, they labor to establish a kind of microclimate within the gallery. This is both a meditation on fragility and a wry salute to the human capacity to make use and make do: the will to adapt to uncertain conditions and the resourcefulness to manage with what is on hand.

Indoor Verbs

Indoor Verbs is a gathering of objects and wall drawings, installed here for the 2013 Sondheim Semi-Finalist Exhibition. While certain individual components were prepared ahead of time, the installation as a whole was improvised over a two-day installation period using a wide range of studio ephemera-- modified construction materials and furniture bits, drawing fragments, other collage fodder-- as well as elemants salvaged from the gallery space itself.

An excess of stuff was transferred from the studio to the installation site, then aggressively edited down to the arrangement shown here. Painted wall-drawings and collage-fragments appear behind, between, and sometimes across the surface of the sculptural components.

The symbiosis between 3-D construction and drawing activity makes the seemingly casual placement of each individual element specific and necessary, while complicating each element's autonomy. Fragments rub against fragments, prop each other up and signal to each other across the room, negotiating a tenuous cumulative identity. With the making of Indoor Verbs, half-formed gestures and partial objects are given an opportunity to move, breathe, transform, play, and set up camp in a foreign space.

Sculpture/Installation 2010-2011

Earlier installation and sculpture. This body of work marks the beginning of my exploration of architectural space using strategies adapted from my painting practice. Most of the work pictured here was created for my MFA thesis exhibition at the University of Connecticut.

  • It Is What It Sounds Like

    Watercolor on paper, laminate, nails, clothespins, fabric
  • Against Weather

    Lumber, fabric, paint, rope, studio detritus, 2011. This installation is something between an (anti-functional) improvised shelter and a collaged spatial drawing. Like much of my 3-D work, Against Weather's unstable and provisional appearance is a consequence of its site-responsive development. [*note: This piece is entirely distinct from my 2016 project also titled Against Weather, although it is an important precursor. Sort of like a great-uncle who happens to have the exact same name.]
  • Against Weather (detail)

    Lumber, fabric, paint, rope, studio detritus <br> 2011 Detail view
  • No Argument

    Wood, fake fur, canvas
  • You'll do

    Wood, paint, yarn<br>2011
  • BR

    Lumber, paint, found furniture element
  • Med. Joy

    Painted plywood, homasote, tape, insulation foam, furniture fragment, carpet
  • Med. Joy

    Painted plywood, homasote, tape, insulation foam, furniture fragment, carpet
  • Caller

    Wood, paint, wall drawing<br> 2011
  • Caller

    Wood, paint, wall drawing <br>detail view <br>2011

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