Anna Betbeze Turns Distress and Destruction Into Art at Nina Johnson

All That's Left (2016)
All That's Left (2016) Courtesy of Nina Johnson Gallery
Anna Betbeze wants you to see her sweat. Her pieces — burnt and distressed pieces of fabric, canvas, and even carpets — are riddled with the evidence of her often harsh and violent technique. The result is more than just the sum of their resultant parts; Betbeze's work is a receptacle and a stage for a process that juxtaposes destruction and creation.

Later this week, Nina Johnson Gallery (formerly Gallery Diet) will show pieces crafted in the same vein as her previous work, along with new drawings made with burnt paper, shown for the first time, in an exhibition titled "Hot Fruit."

"The new works are fractured, cobbled together from parts. They have a off-kilter, dissonant quality," the artist told New Times as she prepared for the opening of the show. "[It's] a continuation of my work with tactile, color field paintings, works that are between painting, sculpture, and architecture."

Drawing from disparate strains of contemporary art, Betbeze's style fuses an Arte Povera sensibility with brutalist tones. A prime source of inspiration for Betbeze is the work of Robert Morris, whose penchant for soft sculpture and its resulting negative space pervades her work. Yet her pieces have a threadbare feel that extends to their presentation. Most of her work is nailed to the wall in a way that not only highlights the relationship with the gallery but also creates a dynamic negative space with the wall behind it. The works' large and imposing size is meant to envelop the space and illicit a strong visceral reaction.
click to enlarge Hot Hole (2016) - COURTESY OF NINA JOHNSON GALLERY
Hot Hole (2016)
Courtesy of Nina Johnson Gallery
Betbeze was born in Columbus, Georgia, and is based out of Brooklyn, New York. She attended the University of Georgia, where she earned a BFA before receiving an MFA from Yale in 2006, where she specialized in printmaking and painting. Her work has been shown in group and solo shows at some of the top gallery and museum spaces around the world, including Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, MoMA PS1, and Luxembourg & Dayan New York. She was the recipient of the 2014 Metropolitan Museum of Art Rome Prize and lectures at her alma mater, Yale.

"I was attracted to Anna's work because of its multidimensional relationship to painting and sculpture and its relationship to the body and architecture," gallery owner Nina Johnson says.

Nina Johnson Gallery's new home in Little Haiti will be the perfect venue for the artist's work. The exhibition space was designed in a brutalist vein, with unfinished molding and exposed fixtures that complement Betbeze's distressed pieces.

"Hot Fruit"
Friday, January 20, through March 4 at Nina Johnson Gallery, 6315 NW Second Ave., Miami; 305-571-2288; Admission is free.
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Neil Vazquez is an arts and entertainment writer who works at the intersection of highbrow and lowbrow A Miami native and Northwestern University graduate, he usually can be found sipping overpriced coffee, walking his golden retriever, or doing yoga.
Contact: Neil Vazquez