Based in San Diego and Chicago respectively, Ben Cabral and Griffin Goodman offer up a duo exhibition at Moosey, diving into childhood memories, traumas and nostalgia through densely referenced imagery and history. Often humorous and sometimes unsettling, the show takes us back to our pre-teen bedrooms, the lights off, trying not to be scared of the commotion happening in the darkness.
“We worked on the same size surfaces to bring cohesion to the show and dealt with similar themes that connect the work closely. This exhibition centers around childhood trauma, boyhood, our childhood bedrooms, and pop culture from when we were kids. Such experiences are behind the formation of the expression “things that go bump in the night,” which refers to ghosts or other supernatural beings that are believed to be the source of frightening, unexplainable noises heard at night,” Griffin Goodman tells us.
It’s easy to see the inspiration of Pop Art in Goodman’s work, where repetitive images are spliced together one after another. It’s not Campbell’s Soup this time however, but instead Where’s Waldo?, Power Rangers, E.T., Bugs Bunny, Gumby. The works are brimming with these references, at such dizzying density that it’s almost bewildering. Compounded by the heavily layered content, where separate images are displayed on top of one another, the eye and brain aren’t sure whether to follow Andy Warhol, Batman or Toy Story, but are free to explore whichever they see fit and fill the gaps themselves.
Ben Cabral told us, on his process for this exhibition, “in the early days of pandemic lockdown, due to limited studio and materials access at this time, I began painting with a monochrome palette. For this show I wanted to return to that way of making in an expanded way, and consider what can be accomplished with this more constrained approach. I utilised the visual language of children’s
media – books, movies, tv shows, and video games – where scary things never actually pose a serious threat. I want to draw on the nostalgia of that cozy spooky feeling of reading with a flashlight under the covers, just a little too scared to sleep, but knowing everything is going to be alright.”
This battle between two opposing forces is central to Cabral’s work and indeed the entire show; a balance between the happy nostalgia of childhood memories and an overshadowing sadness, comfort or stability but also fear, innocence and experience. Opposed ideas are physically present the artists work also, where monochrome palettes are met with brightly coloured sketches over the top, and graphic detailed images are adorned with childlike, almost scribbled
Autobiographically, Ben Cabral grew up just across the bay from SeaWorld, and has fond memories of the sounds and sights, but these are innately tarnished by the abuse of the animals and injustice that subsequently and famously came to light. The orcas and other sea creatures make appearances in this exhibition, amongst the other references to children’s media, often at once frightening or sorrowful, but also lighthearted and comforting.