current current artists exhibitions gallery

Benjamin Jones : isolation

May 8 - June 26, 2004
Opening reception Friday, May 7 from 7- 9 pm
Gallery talk June 3, 2004 at 7 pm

For more than 25 years, Atlanta artist Benjamin Jones has created haunting images that reveal his own distinct visual language. Inhabiting an intriguing, indefinable space, each poignant portrait reveals the artist's innermost feelings and insecurities, while touching a familiar place in all of us. Mixing whimsy with horror, humor with malevolence, Jones' figures send messages about the struggle of life and all its paradoxes. These seductive and intimate drawings, paradoxical in themselves, create a tension between the purity of their intuition and the refinement of their presentation.

Stylistic parallels have been drawn between Benjamin Jones' work and that of graffiti artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, as well as with Jones' acknowledged influence, Jean Dubuffet and the works of Art Brut. Yet, his drawings are undeniably his own. Larry Rinder, Curator of Contemporary Art, Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, comments that Jones' drawings possess "…energy and vitality - those impalpable feelings. One gets the sense that the work had to be there, that it was compelled by some internal urgency on the part of the artist." Seven pieces by Jones are in the Whitney's permanent collection.

In the last two years, with his artistic star on the rise, Benjamin Jones has devoted full attention to his art, working "24/7 - 365," he says. As a keen observer of current events, Jones keeps intricate journals, day and night, collecting images clipped from newspapers, or gathered from his travels that become source material for his drawings. But, in the end, Jones chooses an isolated life, carefully guarding his time and energy for art making. This recent series addresses ISOLATION and the various forms it takes.

While Jones has consciously chosen his own seclusion, he identifies with those who have not. His subjects are often forced into isolation because of their differences or circumstances. For example, War Orphan shows a child isolated from his parents. His body is actually the inverted skull of death; his disfigured stick hands show his helplessness. One eye is blank, the other is dark. The damaged little figure is swallowed up by empty white space making a strong statement on the detachment and tragedies of war. In the drawing Feral, a cat-faced figure looks through the viewer. Jones recently cared for 13 feral cats at one time, domesticating them and finding each a home. To him, a feral cat is a symbol of isolation, often roaming alone at night. "People can be feral as well, like a misanthrope, or a misfit," Jones explains.

In Isolating the Disease, intricate shapes reminiscent of cells under a microscope float around a white-faced figure with Mickey Mouse ears. Those ears represent corporate greed, according to Jones, using Disney as a symbolic corporate icon. In his view, corporate excess is just as much a disease as cancerous cells. Isolation Technique/Spider's Web is a bold drawing of a spider-like figure with an evil face, surrounded by its own intricate web, waiting for an innocent victim. "It is similar to the way a rapist, pedophile or murderer, lures its prey," Jones explains. Next to the spider is a huge catch, wrapped "as if in a body bag" or isolated in a cocoon.

Self Exile depicts a two-headed figure surrounded by many dinosaur-like heads with ferocious teeth. The dinosaurs symbolize anything foreign -- skin of a different color, an unfamiliar language or unknown custom. To Jones, this drawing speaks of self-exile due to ignorance. And, in Death Row, 16 figures, all collages, stand in a line forming a powerful parade of both the guilty and the innocent. Some deserve to be there; others are wrongfully isolated. The piece reflects Jones' uncanny ability to articulate both the beauty and horror of life, and deliver it with compassion.