Western Exhibitions kicks off the fall season with new work by Ben Stone. Stone' six new sculptures and one small painting transform two-dimensional images culled from popular sources into compelling and uncanny three-dimensional forms. The show will open will open on Friday, September 10 with a free public reception from 5 to 8pm.
The shocking beating of Kansas City Royals first base coach Tom Gamboa at a Chicago White Sox game in 2002 forms the centerpiece of this show. In the incident, White Sox fans William Ligue and his son, highly intoxicated, ran onto the field unprovoked and attacked Gamboa, knocking him to the ground, landing several punches, then took a beating from outraged Kansas City players. The Ligues were ultimately arrested. Years later, this random act of violence still haunts Stone. His large sculpture, three life-size monochromatic figures rendered in resin-coated polystyrene, captures this abhorrent scene as Gamboa is first knocked to the ground, his cap flying, with the Ligues throwing errant haymakers. Stone sees the pure rage and beautiful futility of this act as a disruption in the system, a ghost in the machine, as if the Ligues were possessed by a strange energy from an angrier time steeped in Chicago's darker cultural histories of the thinly veiled policy of segregation of the first Daley administration, the stockyards and Steve Dahl's infamous disco demolition.
Other pieces in the show depict criminals or symbols of criminal behavior. Stone wrestles the superflat characters Team Rocket, the villainous threesome from the animated television series Pokémon into a low relief sculpture. His fascination with the Pokémon evildoers comes from the anime show with his daughter and admiring the team's persistence to "denounce the evils of truth and love" despite the constant failure of their nefarious plans. Stone finds their absolute certainty and dedication to doomed outcomes analogous to his own artistic production. Despite his perceived failures, Stone finds himself heading to the studio every day with fresh abandon.
Other works in the show include two sculptures which render a representation of the criminal neighborhood watch signs, an anachronistic image of a shadowy figure wearing a fedora and overcoat with the lapels turned up, into minimalist totems; a five-foot tall elephant, sitting on its haunches, made out of thick coils of twisted rope, based on a small, almost guilty-seeming tchotcke elephant; a mini bust of a crying Abraham Lincoln wearing a hand-made Chicago Bears pom-pom topped knit cap; and a small painting on rope of William Ligue (one of the Gamboa attackers) and his chest-covering tattoo.
This is Ben Stone's second solo show at Western Exhibitions. His last, in 2007, was reviewed in Artforum. His work has been shown at the Mattress Factory in Pittsburgh, DiverseWorks in Houston and in Chicago at Suitable, Ten-in-One, Gallery 400 and the Hyde Park Art Center. Stone's seven-foot tall, 250 pound robot, Nuptron 4000, performed his wedding ceremony in 2004 and is currently moonlighting as the stand-up comedian Bernie Circuits, recently seen at Club Nutz at both the Museum of Contemporary Art and the NEXT Art Fair in Chicago. Stone received his BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design and his MFA from the University of Illinois-Chicago. He lives in Berwyn and maintains a studio in Chicago.