Late Summer

Special Special is pleased to present Late Summer, Benjamin Langford’s first solo exhibition with the gallery. Langford transforms the space with large-scale, illusionistic sculptures that bloom and drape across the walls, including vines, leaves, and fauna in various stages of growth. The artist photographs found plants in high resolution, prints them on canvas, then hand-cuts and reassembles them into soft sculptures. The finished works invite viewers to examine their odd shapes, realistic textures, and minute details otherwise easily dismissed.

As with each exhibition, Special Special has also worked with the artist to produce a functional art edition. For Late Summer, the gallery collaborated with Langford to create felt planters entitled “Tubers”. The planters come in two varieties—either turnips or sunchokes—each available in editions of 200. Often taking form as enlarged, edible structures beneath the soil surface, tubers function as storage organs for nutrients in some plant species. The hyperreality of the planters, which look like tuberous roots, distorts the perception of the real plants living inside them to play with the boundaries between the container and contained.

Together, Langford’s sculptures and usable planters envelop the viewer in a wondrous simulacrum of nature. The exhibition brings together the transitional nature of late summer with its material metaphor, the tuber. Summer’s end is characterized by intense heat, pests and blight, thick stagnant air. The season is punctuated by afternoon thunderstorms, undergoing the last spurt of growth before harvest time. This frenetic, pent-up energy draws a parallel to the destabilizing social-political reality that is currently unraveling, as life becomes irrevocably marked by a prolonged public health crisis and civil unrest. In response, many turn inwards to learn and unlearn, to heal and to transform. Rather than escape, introspection offers the opportunity for self-nurturing and collective cultivation. 

Langford developed this body of work during quarantine, while caring for his houseplants as a grounding exercise. Just like the way tuberous roots are buried humbly in the earth, turning the last of summer’s bountiful energy into nutrients, the artist’s emphasis on small gestures of care towards the self and nature is driven by feelings of hope and optimism towards the future. 

Special Special will also launch the gallery’s first Plant Residency to coincide with Late Summer. The residency selects individuals to leave plants at the gallery that remind them of someone for a short duration, where they will receive water, care, and an accolade on their CV.

Benjamin Langford (b. 1992) is an artist and photographer who lives and works in Brooklyn, New York and graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design in 2014. He was born in Connecticut but grew up in London and subsequently Singapore, which exposed him to a diverse range of cultural influences from a young age. Traces of these cities, with their different gardening traditions and plant species, can be found in his work, which centers on contemporary representations of nature and the hyperreal.