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Kajahl was born in Santa Cruz, CA in 1985 and received his BFA in painting from San Francisco State University in 2008. He spent his final year studying at the Accademia di Belle Arti di Firenze, Tuscany, Italy.In 2012 Kajahl received is MFA in painting from Hunter College, New York, NY.Kajahl was a recipient of the Joan Mitchell Foundation Painters and Sculptors Grant in 2013. He was also a 2016 Artist in Residence at the Joan Mitchell Center, New Orleans, LA. Kajahl was recently awarded an Artist-in-Residence at Lower Eastside Printshop New York, NY in 2019. Kajahl is represented by Richard Heller Gallery, Los Angeles and Monique Meloche Gallery in Chicago.

Recent solo exhibitions include Royal Specter at Monique Meloche Gallery in Chicago, IL, Unearthed Entities at Richard Heller Gallery in Los Angeles, CA, Obscure Origins at Tillou Fine Arts Brooklyn, NY, curated by Larry Ossei-Mensah. Public collections include Collection Solo, The Dean Collection, The Studio Museum Harlem and 21c Museum Hotel: Art Museum.

Kajahlís portraits combine iconography from African, Asian, European, and Pre-Columbian traditions. His process entails sifting through history, both amassing and archiving imagery ranging from ancient art, vintage ethnography, historical portraiture and landscape. Through the medium of oil painting, Kajahl depicts a range of figures elevated to an iconic status, including alchemists, astronomers, dignitaries, navigational explorers and majestic deities.

For Kajahl, painting is a place where we can traverse different cultures and temporalities as a way to challenge our ideas about how we see ourselves and others. His work questions the boundaries of identity by treating painting as a site where radical mixtures, overlooked history and speculative fiction come into play. His paintings take us to a time before race existed by opening up to the chaos and complexity, expanding the periphery around how we perceive ourselves in the past and present day. The figures themselves are semi fictional, composed of artifacts from history, yet in their totality, do not represent figures from real history.

As deeply invested in the artifacts themselves and their respective histories, Kajahl is ultimately interested in how the combination of objects become a more accurate reflection of who we are. They transcend what confines or limit us in this reality and open us to the possibilities of who and what we can become.

M.F.A in Painting, Hunter College, New York, NY

Accademia di Belle Arti di Firenze, Florence, Italy

B.F.A in Painting, San Francisco State University, San Francisco, CA

Solo Exhibitions

Tabula Rasa, Richard Heller Gallery, Los Angeles, CA (Opens October 9th, 2021)
Royal Specter, Monique Meloche Gallery, Chicago, IL

Unearthed Entities, Richard Heller Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
Obscure Origins, Tillou Fine Art, Brooklyn, NY

University North Carolina Wilmington Arts Gallery, Wilmington, NC

Group Exhibitions

Mining Memory, Lower Eastside Print Shop, New York, NY
A Romantic Comedy, Twentyfive Kent, Brooklyn, NY
Coherent Brussells, A Pearl Laser on Gothic Holodeck, Brussels, Belgium

Super Dutchess Gallery, Fortress of Solitude: A Dirty Hand Hologram for Umberto, New York, NY
Art Brussels, Richard Heller Gallery, Brussels, Belgium

Expo Chicago, Richard Heller Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
Immersion, Richard Heller Gallery, Los Angeles, CA

UNTITLED Art Fair, Richard Heller Gallery, Miami Beach, FL
Dallas Art Fair, Richard Heller Gallery, Dallas, TX
Respect, The Church of St Paul the Apostle, New York, NY
Beheaded, Richard Heller Gallery, Los Angeles, CA

In Context: Africans in America, Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg, ZA
Beauty, The Church of St Paul the Apostle, New York, NY
No Commission Art Fair, Bronx, NY

Empiria, Superchief Gallery, New York, NY
MoCADA, emerging; Visual Art and Music in a Post-Hip- Hop Era, Brooklyn, NY
Strange Times, Novella Gallery, New York, NY

Hunter MFA Thesis Show, Times Square Building, Hunter MFA Building, New York, NY
Superheroes and Antiheroes, SUNY College at Old Westbury, NY
Voices of Home, Jenkins Johnson Gallery, New York, NY
30 Americans; Next Generation, Contemporary Wing, Washington, DC

The Black Portrait, Rush Arts Gallery, New York, NY

Selected Bibliography
Newcity Art, A Fantastical Take on the Blackamoor: A Review of Kajahl at Monique Meloche, Dec 8.
Colossal, Subversive and Grandiose, Kajahlís Vivid Portraits Supplant Historical Narratives, Nov. 20.

Santa Monica Mirror, Unearthed Entities at Richard Heller, Nov. 1
Artillery, Richard Heller Gallery: Kajahl, Oct. 11

City Press South Africa, Portraits of Reinvention, Nov 1
Upper Playground, Provoking Portraiture by Kajahl Benes, Sep. 16
Juxtapoz, Kajahl Benes Parallel Histories, Aug. 25

Awards & Residencies

Joan Mitchell Center, Artist in Residence, New Orleans, LA    

Joan Mitchell Foundation Painters and Sculptors Grant, New York, NY


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