Frank Benson, Juliana, 2014–15. Painted bronze with Corian pedestal, sculpture: 23 x 48 x 22 inches (58.4 x 121.9 x 55.9 cm); pedestal: 42 x 53 x 24 inches (106.7 x 134.6 x 61 cm). Purchased through the generosity of the Acquisitions Circle, General Acquisition Fund, and Patrick Planeta and Santiago Varela. Courtesy the artist; Sadie Coles HQ, London; and Andrew Kreps Gallery, New York.
Brooklyn-based artist Frank Benson works predominantly in sculpture and photography, investigating forms of hyperrealism achievable through technological means. While Benson’s sculptures are often created with traditional artistic materials and are informed by art historical considerations, their remarkably lifelike quality is achieved through cutting-edge modes of production.
Benson’s Juliana, made with 3-D printing technology as well as bronze casting, captures artist Juliana Huxtable in exquisite detail. In close collaboration with Huxtable, Benson finished the sculpture with a metallic green paint inspired by Huxtable’s series of experimental self-portraits, giving the classic bronze sculpture a digital or machine finish. The artist presents Juliana with idealized, hyperrealistic precision, her pose referencing classical representations of the female body throughout art history. According to Benson, “Juliana represents an important shift in our culture toward a wider acceptance of polymorphous sexuality. I wanted to work with a process that also reflects an important shift in sculpture, which has been radically changed by the introduction of 3-D scanning and rapid-prototyping technology.” After the inclusion of Juliana in the New Museum’s 2015 exhibition Surround Audience in New York, the sculpture became a social media phenomenon and an icon for some members of the transgender community. Its digital origins, transformed into physical form and translated back to the digital realm via social media, are emblematic of how circulated images can have immense power, and how that power accrues simultaneously for the object itself. Juliana featured prominently in the ICA’s 2018 major group exhibition Art in the Age of the Internet, 1989 to Today.
Juliana builds on the ICA’s strong holdings in sculpture, joining major works by Nick Cave, Rachel Harrison, and Eva Hesse, among others. The addition of this important object complements works in the collection by artists such as Sharon Hayes, Nan Goldin, and Collier Schorr, who address identity and gender in their work. Moreover, it allows for the development of more inclusive narratives about the fluidity of gender and sexuality in the 21st century.
Purchased through the generosity of the Acquisitions Circle, General Acquisition Fund, and Patrick Planeta and Santiago Varela.