Magic Ben Big Boy
Conceived by Vincent Fecteau, the exhibition centers on a re-creation of the artist’s first one-person show, “Ben,” originally presented twenty-five years ago at Kiki, a short-lived but influential artist-run gallery in San Francisco’s Mission District. The title "Ben" comes from a 1972 movie and its theme song of the same name, sung by Michael Jackson. A love song from a boy to his pet rat, it became a #1 hit single and was nominated for an Academy Award. The works in the exhibition include collages of found photographs of cats, sculptures made from old shoeboxes, and eggshells painted to look like eyes.
Two important works made in San Francisco a few years earlier by Nayland Blake and Lutz Bacher are installed in the adjacent galleries. Bacher’s sculpture Big Boy (1992) replicates an anatomically detailed stuffed doll, like those used in child-abuse assessments, but expands it to larger than human size. Blake’s Magic (1990–91) is an assemblage featuring Madame, the puppet star of Wayland Flowers’s 1980s sitcom Madame’s Place. At the time of “Ben,” Fecteau was working as an assistant in Blake’s studio. “Magic is one of my favorite pieces from that period of Nayland’s work,” says Fecteau. “Nayland also introduced me to Lutz when she approached him about finding someone to help fabricate Big Boy.” Fecteau worked on Bacher’s sculpture in his bedroom for several months before it was finished with help from a costume designer for the San Francisco Opera.