17. Across Seven Ruins & Redemptions Somo Kamarioka at Claire Oliver Gallery
This winter, the Claire Oliver Gallery will present artist Leonardo Benzant’s Across Seven Ruins & Redemptions Somo Kamarioka, a series of six multi-media works, including four large-scale mixed-media sculptures and two paintings on paper. Each work serves as an extension of Benzant’s exploration of his conception of the Urban Shaman, a character that represents our personal and collective struggle to find redemption against the shadows of our society’s ruins. Inspiration for the Urban Shaman came from Benzant’s own experiences growing up in some of New York City’s roughest neighborhoods and the self-destructive behaviors and trauma that formed as a result.
In addition, while crafting the installation, the artist drew from his connections to the African-Atlantic diaspora and the various modes of communication that have come from African-derived rituals. Somo Kamarioka serves as an alias to the Urban Shaman, being a creolized mixture of Spanish and Kikongo that translates in English to mean “we are the chameleons,” representing the multitude of changes we all go through. Benzant utilizes a variety of media and found objects in Across Seven Ruins & Redemptions Somo Kamarioka to create dynamic hanging beaded structures inspired by the Yoruba and Kongo community and the beaded regalia of African material culture. Each bead, strand, and form wrapped and bound pulls from traditional African healing and spiritual practices. Drawing similarities to the Central African tradition of nkisi, Across Seven Ruins & Redemptions Somo Kamarioka, reflects on the adaptive survival strategies developed by individuals as they navigate systems of oppression.