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Gavin Benjamin, former resident artist at The Westmoreland Museum of American Art, returns to the Museum for an exhibition featuring photographic portraits of local community members taken during his residency.

Gavin Benjamin, Ryan, Lin, and Taylor, Greensburg, PA, from the series Museum Pictures (Detail), 2021; courtesy the artist;©Gavin Benjamin
Gavin Benjamin, Ryan, Lin, and Taylor, Greensburg, PA, from the series Museum Pictures (Detail), 2021. © Gavin Benjamin

Gavin Benjamin: Break Down and Let It All Out, the inaugural project of the Museum’s new contemporary series to be featured in its historic paneled rooms, will be on view from October 16, 2022 through February 5, 2023. Through this exhibition, Benjamin works to acknowledge the past while also visualising possibilities for the present and gesturing to a more equitable future.

“It is my hope that this exhibition will result in deeper conversations surrounding the arts in Greensburg and the longstanding influence of the African American community within the museum setting. I wanted to reframe the idea of a residency as an all-encompassing endeavour that reaches far into the corners of the museum, its collection, and the Greensburg community,” stated Benjamin.

To create the body of work featured in Break Down and Let It All Out, Benjamin photographed over 60 local community members. The exhibition then combines the installation of a domestic space owned by a fictional Black family for nearly 250 years, which includes works of fine and decorative art from the Museum’s permanent collection, with these psychologically rich portraits.

“Museums are nothing without their audiences, and this exhibition makes that explicit. It will be wonderful to see the reactions of the community members featured in Gavin’s portraits as they view this installation in the Museum’s beautiful paneled room spaces for the first time,” indicated Chief Curator Jeremiah William McCarthy.

Benjamin is one of five artists to participate in The Westmoreland’s Artist-in-Residency Program presented in partnership with BOOM Concepts and made possible by generous support from The Pittsburgh Foundation and The New Sun Rising Arts | Equity | Reimagined program. The residency program emphasises the Museum’s commitment to engaging and supporting Black and marginalised artists, to promoting equity in the arts, and to sharing compelling and meaningful cultural experiences with the regional community. Benjamin’s residency occurred from March through July of 2021.

As part of the presentation of Break Down and Let It All Out, Benjamin will take part in an In Conversation public program at the Museum on Wednesday, October 19 from 6-8pm where he will discuss his exhibition with McCarthy. After the discussion, attendees will have the opportunity to view the exhibition. This program is free with advance registration recommended. To register, one may visit thewestmoreland.org/calendar.

Gavin Benjamin: Break Down and Let It All Out is supported by The Fine Foundation.

The exhibition is on view from the 16th of October 2022 until the 2nd of February 2023. For more information, please visit The Westmoreland Museum of American Art.

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