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1709 W Chicago Ave.
Chicago, IL 60622

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October 13 to November 10, 2007


Ben Stone
transforms two-dimensional images from American popular culture into bizarre three-dimensional sculptures. Past bodies of work include relief busts of 1980s nail salon beauties based on the style of Patrick Nagel; a three-dimensional rendering of a giant octopus playing the bagpipes; and a bust and a life-sized, legless Mary Lou Retton with her arms upheld triumphantly. For his first solo show in Western Exhibitions’ Main Gallery, Stone takes his often hilarious and colorful pop sensibilities into a dark place, using familiar imagery to investigate personal psychological dramas addressing Stone’s self-worth as an artist.

For the show’s sculptural centerpiece, Stone re-creates a frame from a classic Mad magazine cartoon using wood, steel and resin-coated polystyrene. Five large cartoon characters (Fester, his family, and big, lummox sidekick Karbunckle, originally from the sick and twisted pen of Mad legend Don Martin) are frozen mid-air after a catastrophic collision with a rollercoaster. In Stone’s sculpture, the characters are represented suspended above a giant cartoon explosion replete with “action lines” and musical notes.

To Stone, this image of a dysfunctional family caught in a tragic situation partly of its own making, recalls painful memories from his youth. According to the artist, the suspended figures symbolize his arrested emotional development after a traumatic family event at a point in Stone’s life when the primary measure of one’s artistic achievement among his elementary school peers was based on how well one could mimic a Mad Magazine cartoons. Stone is also attracted to physicality of the humor in the Martin strip, a gross sexuality that Stone heightens when translating the flat image into three dimensions.

Other works in the show include a video depicting Stone receiving a restraining order taken out against himself and a large vinyl wall appliqué combining multiple Calvin and Hobbes cartoons of the sort often found in the windows of pickup trucks.

Ben Stone’s handcrafted pop sculptures and video work have been shown at the Mattress Factory in Pittsburgh, DiverseWorks in Houston, Gallery 400, Van Harrison Gallery in Chicago and solo shows at Suitable and Ten-in-One. Western Exhibitions included his work in “5 Solo Shows” the gallery’s fall season opener in 2005. That summer Stone’s Nuptron 4000, a seven-foot tall, 250 pound robot who performed Stone’s wedding ceremony in 2004, was shown at the Hyde Park Art Center. Stone received his MFA from the University of Illinois-Chicago. He lives and works in Berwyn, Illinois.