ArtBeat: Martin Benjamin’s “Atomic Age” in Venice

Martin Benjamin: Waterford, New York
Martin Benjamin: Waterford, New York

We wrote about award-winning Schenectady photographer and Union College art professor Martin Benjamin when he published first book, “Atomic Age,” late last year and also when he had exhibits of his work in Atlanta and at Siena College’s Yates Gallery in Loudonville.

But now, Benjamin’s “Atomic Age” exhibit has gone international.

His latest one-person exhibit opened earlier this month – at Ikona Gallery in Venice. Yeah, that’s in Italy.

“The exhibition is a different selection of images than Atlanta and Siena. The gallery owner, Ziva Krauss, curated it and made her own selections from the book,” Benjamin says. “It is a really interesting mix that I would never have imagined to choose. I had to print a number of new ones because they were never made as exhibition prints previously.”

Here’s the press release from the Ikona Gallery concerning the exhibit:

In July 1945, at Trinity Site, near Alamogordo (New Mexico, USA), the first nuclear test blast in history was performed. Robert Jungk, in Tomorrow is Already Here, considers this event as the birth of “new times” – the beginning of an nuclear age based on the aspect of man’s behaviour that aims to bend every aspect of his life to his own will. It is an attack on “the sky, the atom, the nature, the man, the future, the universe, the soul.”

However, this new atomic age, instead being the age of full control and life without fear or concerns, is rather the age of precarious balances, cold wars, and weapons of mass destruction that each day are more powerful. Today the hydrogen bomb can reach a power 10,000 times stronger than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan. In this era, the future is day by day darker and more alarming. It is the age of uncertainty.

Martin Benjamin, a photographer for the past forty years, is professor of photography at Union College in Schenectady, NY, and the winner of several international prizes. His photographs draw an intimate and touching profile of this nihilistic and apparently hopeless era. His black and white shots, never common and always away from cliché, hit a multitude of themes: nuclear, weaponry ordinance, globalization, cultures crossing, adolescence, drugs, music and love. But more than that, they catch the “air between,” the magic that stands in the moment, the grain of poetry that often hides itself behind the apparent banality of what surrounds us.

“Atomic Age” presents a rich selection of photographs, taken from the larger collection of images in the book of the same name. It’s a strong, and at the same time poignant, journey – a clear gaze on the present that never loses touch with the heart and the substance of things.

“Atomic Age” remains on exhibit at Ikona Gallery in Venice through Sunday, May 30.

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