Darwin & the other beards (Chuck D?)
This work is part of a series by the artist that depicts men with beards. For the artist, beards are both powerful and a way for men to hide; they are a protective disguise, a layer of facial fiction.
Benjamin Weissman started making drawings of bearded men after drawing hundreds of cabins, shacks, cottages and lean-tos. For the artist, the cabins were empty—haunted and people-less—and evoked pent-up emotions, sexual intrigue, secrets and loneliness. The drawings of bearded men seemed to Weissman like a natural progression from the cabins. If the huts suggested narratives, then the drawings of rural-looking men with beards were possible characters in these possible narratives.
For visual inspiration, Weismann looked at photographs of bearded writers he was reading: Ibsen, Darwin, Melville, Shaw and Ginsberg. The artist also used friends and students as models, as well as actors like Gene Hackman who wore a beard in Young Frankenstein.
About this series, Weissman says: A skier friend looked at one of my drawings and said, 'It’s easier to draw a face with a beard than a face with no beard, is that true?' The question made me laugh. A drawing’s degree of difficulty was part of its power."
Benjamin Weissman frequently uses conceptual frameworks and repeated visual motifs to create his paintings, drawings and sculptures. A prolific writer, the artist’s work sometimes combines fantastically colored pictorial space with textual elements drawn from a variety of sources. Weissman’s compositions explore and deconstruct myths, reframing viewers’ understanding of common objects and everyday practices.
Benjamin Weissman was born in Los Angeles, California. The artist received a BFA from the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, California in 1981.
Exhibitions of Weissman’s work include: Valley Vista: Art in the San Fernando Valley, 1970-1990 at California State University in Northridge, California (2014); The Lateral Slip at Sweeney Art Gallery at the University of California, Riverside in California (2005); 100 Artists See God at The Jewish Museum in San Francisco, California (toured 2004-2006); Alpenblick: Contemporary Art and the Alpine at Kunsthalle Vienna in Vienna, Austria (1998); The Grammarians at Guggenheim Gallery at Chapman University in Orange, California (1994); and The Return of the Cadavre Exquis at The Drawing Center in New York City (1993).
Weissman’s work is in the permanent collection of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, California.
Weissman’s works of fiction have been collected in: Headless, published by Akashic Books in Brooklyn, New York in 2004; and Dear Dead Person, published by Serpent’s Tail in London, UK in 1994.
Weissman’s collaborative works with Yutaka Sone were presented at the Santa Monica Museum of Art in Santa Monica, California in 2014. The artist’s collaborative works with Paul McCarthy were presented at Galleria civica di arte contemporanea in Trento, Italy in 2008, later touring to Zacheta Narodowa Galeria Sztuki in Warsaw, Poland in 2009.
Weissman lives and works in Los Angeles, California.