3.22.2023 – 5.4.2024

Ben Borden

NOON Projects is honoured to present Bloom an exhibition of living/organic paintings by Los Angeles based artist Ben Borden. Bloom is the artist’s second exhibition with the gallery and first solo show in Los Angeles.

Bloom became a verb as time collapsed with the advent of modern imaging technology. Through the use of early time-lapse photography, F. Percy Smith’s silent film, The Birth of a Flower (1910), told the secrets of petals unfurling. Images that expose time as a series of blinking flashes reveal the flimsiness of a static being and stable present. The mythology of a moment so precariously situated between the past and future laid bare.

In his first solo show in Los Angeles, Ben Borden offers ever-becoming algae paintings that, from their autonomy, continuously confront time as a measure of change. Each painting belonging to “Bloom” owes its origins to a mixture of dehydrated algae, potassium ferrocyanide and glycerin; a technique Borden has been developing since 2018. Between panes of glass and substrates of bioplastic, Borden establishes the boundaries for chemical transitions that produce the fluid, mercurial surfaces of his works.

Atop these chemical and organic beds, Borden places precisely cut steel plates to initiate reactions that bleed Prussian blue. The first synthetic pigment is encountered as the steel’s thoughtful edges become the site of Borden’s restrained authorship. Like the alchemist who happened upon that blue pigment centuries ago, Borden allows himself to be surprised by his works' autopoietic production. In the face of self-generating systems and artificial intelligence, gaps in understanding arise and the creator is as uneasily singular as the creation is predictable.

As Borden’s reactions evolve from their self-generating states, something akin to acheiropoietos— icons made without the human hand— emerge. In the tenth century images attributed only to light and grace, allowed people to see what even angels could not imagine. Later, the invention of photography located sacredness in the chemical miracle. Here, Borden summons materials that have migrated between industrial, medical and fine art use, to establish the grounds for revelations as the stains of microbial life unendingly appear.

The intensities that define the moments of Borden’s paintings are the results of collisions between relinquished and reclaimed authorship. The works can take months and even years to gestate to a resolved state and necessitate a patient balance between care, maintenance and ambivalence. In his last act of provisional intervention, Borden seals his petri-like paintings with layers of epoxy and silicon, creating an air-tight, water-tight chamber that subjects the chemical changes enclosed within to a much slower rate. Deprived of catalyzing elements, the lives of the work are tempered, but not entirely thwarted. A vital endurance ensures perpetual flush.

From their continual evolution, Borden’s paintings exist in the memory of Joshua Reynolds, the famed 18th century portrait artist whose pigments were prized for their unstable nature. A morning sun was known to melt Reynolds’ tint. Reds that faded to gray within a lifetime made the canvas a unit for a temporal alternative to the budding capitalist notion of factory time that accompanied industrialization. In a similar resistance to dominant temporalities, Borden’s paintings deny the image its role as guardian of a singular moment.

“Bloom” exists in the spaces between autopoietic and induced creation. The residues of Borden’s reactions are formally captivating in ways possible to appreciate during a passing encounter. There is serenity to be found in the blurred edges and organic shapes, and the meticulous precision held in the craftsmanship of the works’ frames. However, the ever-changing natures of the paintings present an invitation to stay with ceaseless becoming that most rewards sustained engagement.

- Sophia Weltman  

March 22, 2024

On View Through May 5, 2024


Maddy Inez Leeser

May 11 – June 15, 2024

David Shull

June 21 – July 27, 2024