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Daniel Benayun

Daniel Benayun (@daniel_benayun_) isn’t trying to sell you anything in particular. Rather, the 30-year-old Jamaica Plain artist is selling ideas, by way of colorful and sometimes poetry-laced works inspired by vintage advertisements. Benayun chatted with the Globe about reimagining 20th-century design tropes, color blocking, and anti-capitalist advertising.

Q. Your designs take place within an alternate universe inspired by vintage magazine ads. Could you tell me a little about when that place first appeared to you?

A. I’ve always been surrounded by [antiques like those magazines], and I had an issue with the way [this style] was oftentimes used, where it could be to sell a product that was harmful or something imbued with racism or referential to the damages of war or the typical things you’d see, like homophobia or sexism. Ethically, I believe there was so much wrong with 20th-century advertising. So, as an artist today, I love taking these design elements and using them in what I create, which is my own version of a pop — almost surrealist — art and vintage advertising revival and synthesize those elements to do something that’s politically correct.


Q. What’s your favorite thing about making these pieces?

A. I spent so much time around beautiful things in my teens, like beautiful, inaccessible vintage advertising pieces, beautiful paintings. A huge inspiration for me to work as a typographer and a designer was for me to be able to literally take these things that moved me so deeply, that felt so wildly inaccessible, and just test myself to be able to make it on my own — DIY, as simple as that. I’ve been painting my whole life, and I just have to create. If I am not creating or I’m not painting, I can feel it physically and mentally.

Q. The colors you use are so vivid but never overbearing. How do you choose them?

A. I grew up really admiring artists like Warhol, Picasso, Matisse, especially Toulouse-Lautrec, and their blocking of color. I’m also just very interested in interior design. I was an assistant to an interior decorator for a year, and it taught me a lot about how you can use color in an interior in meaningful ways by doing things minimally. So it’s this exploration into this minimal use of color to drive narratives. I think that Warhol is a really good example, where you look at his portraits, if you close your eyes and you think “Marilyn Monroe,” it’s very vivid in your head. I’m always focused on how I can say the most by specifically determining what I’m trying to say with the fewest colors possible.


Q. Though your work takes inspiration from advertising, you’ve said it’s meant to be anti-capitalist. How so?

A. [My] work that incorporates text is oftentimes poetry. I write short stories. I write poetry. I literally just self-published a book of paintings that included 60 pages of poetry. And I think that is really the contrast between traditional advertising and what it is that I do. There’s [also] this weird difference [from mass-produced ads where] all these [pieces] are handmade, they’re one of one, and instead of text that tells you to go buy Valvoline gasoline or, you know, freakin’ Tamagotchis, you are being told a poem. It’s not necessarily trying to sell you a product, but rather sell you an idea.

Interview was edited and condensed. Jenni Todd can be reached at jenni.todd@  Follow her on Twitter at @JenniRTodd.