Ben Morea: Full Circle, 1964–Present
Thursday, May 25, 2023 - Saturday, Jun 24, 2023
Boo-Hooray is pleased to present “Ben Morea: Full Circle, 1964–Present,” a retrospective exhibition of paintings by artist, publisher, and political activist Ben Morea.
On view May 25–June 24, 2023 at Boo-Hooray in NYC’s Chinatown, the exhibition features some of the artist’s earliest paintings from the 1960s, as well as selections from more recent String Theory, Tantric, and his current Animist series spanning the 1990s to today. Accompanying the paintings will be a full run of Morea’s legendary anarchist zine Black Mask, representing his contributions to 1960s counterculture and political radicalism.
For more than five decades, Ben Morea has been a key figure at the intersection of art and activism. Although his anarchist provocations are well-known, his artwork has only recently started to receive the recognition it deserves. “Full Circle” showcases the recurring symbol of the circle in Morea’s body of work. It is through this elemental form that the artist taps into a spiritual connection with the natural world. Citing the myriad examples of roundness in nature, he has said that “everything, all creation is round.”
The self-taught Morea began his artistic practice in the early-1960s, creating abstract paintings informed by Russian Suprematism, Abstract Expressionism, ancient art, and the mythological and spiritual writings of Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell. He exhibited not only in traditional art galleries, but in occupied buildings and other public spaces.
Inspired by the far-left politics of the 1960s, Morea developed an anarchist political orientation, leading him to reject the art world in 1966 and instead focus his energy on direct action and publishing radical political tracts. He was among the most dynamic provocateurs of the 1960s revolutionary underground to target the culture industry. In the tradition of action-oriented avant-garde movements like Dada and Situationism, he intervened in art, politics, and culture in New York City and beyond. His infamous actions include shutting down MoMA, forcibly entering the Pentagon during an anti-war protest, and dumping the Lower East Side’s uncollected garbage in the fountain at Lincoln Center. Morea, with Ron Hahne, Dan Georgakas, and others, published a short-lived anarchist periodical, Black Mask, and later issued a series of mimeograph broadsides and fliers signed “Up Against the Wall Motherfucker,” in reference to a 1967 Amiri Baraka poem.
Finding himself under government surveillance, Morea fled New York in 1969 and lived off the grid with Indigenous communities in the American Southwest. He remained politically active, participating in Indigenous struggles for autonomy. Returning to art in the 1980s, Morea revisited the image of the circle in new series of paintings and works on paper. “Ben Morea: Full Circle, 1964–Present” underscores the continuity in Morea’s artistic explorations and the enduring relevance of political interventions in the cultural sphere.
Curated by Daylon Orr
Thursday, May 25, 6 pm
22 Eldridge Street, 2nd Floor
Artist Talk with Ben Morea, in Conversation with Nadja Millner-Larsen
Thursday, June 1, 6:30 pm
22 Eldridge Street, 2nd Floor
Ben Morea will be in conversation with Nadja Millner-Larsen, author of Up Against the Real: Black Mask from Art to Action (University of Chicago Press, 2023), the first comprehensive study of the group Black Mask and its acrimonious relationship to the New York art world of the 1960s.