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.
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.
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.
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.
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.