Following its opening last week on Sept. 9, Ben Jones’ Newspaper at Ace Gallery remains an immersive presentation.
All of the artwork being showcased has been created and curated particularly for the exhibit in question. Thus, more work is being added organically to the show throughout the duration of the exhibit, which is scheduled to remain on display until Oct. 21. According to the gallery, there will be another opening in early October, once all the pieces have arrived and been installed.
Hailing from Pennsylvania, Jones currently works and lives in Los Angeles. His interests and accomplishments are reflected in the various media he has undertaken throughout his artistic career. He has and continues to explore the possibilities of zine, drawing, painting, sculpture, video, animation, comics, digital art and more.
Jones is known primarily for founding “Paper Rad,” an art collective native to his hometown, the Cartoon Network animation Problem Solverz and the FXX show Stone Quackers. His influences are clear and diverse, ranging from the composition of Super Mario Bros. to the aesthetic of Hayao Miyazaki to the fantastical approach of Jim Henson.
Jones’ work has been on display at Ace Gallery before. Unlike his 2015 self-titled exhibition at the gallery, Newspaper forgoes effervescent neon colors and psychedelic imagery. Even so, the childlike nature that permeated his highly graphic, geometric ping pong tables and “cinema paintings” in his 2015 exhibit also underscore the work in Newspaper.Jones’ drawings, paintings and animations in this exhibition are rather underwhelming when the question at hand is his ability to render objects as they are.
But that was not Jones’ goal in 2015 and it is not his goal now. His fantastical, Seussical acrylic ladders and boxes were not meant to seem real; they were meant to encourage the very opposite. With the pieces in Newspaper, one is equipped with the eye of a child, frozen in an animated world stuck in a state of limbo. However, Jones would be quick to refute that claim — he avoids artifice like the plague.
“I don’t believe in glorifying or examining or reflecting the relationship in what I produce,” Jones said. “That said, my work is in and of itself hopefully an expression of this loving relationship.”
Ace Gallery’s Beverly Hills location recently shut down, so all artwork from that point forward is being displayed on the second floor of the historic Desmond’s Department Store building. This exhibit in particular is being held in a showroom across the street, which is not always open to the public.
The walls of the exhibition room are plain white, the floors an industrial gray — everything about the show seems a bit unfinished. This show places viewers in a world in between, like the sketches of characters in an animation yet to be finalized.
Jones has expressed the importance of embracing this stage of creation, having claimed that simplicity is key to a beautiful animation, and that “color is just this whole other mess, and it was always secondary to the line drawing.”
He has further defended the validity of sketching, claiming that he is “constantly chasing that magical, ethereal line or stroke or gesture that is half muscle memory or trance action. You get a lot of that with handwriting and with quick sketching.”
Newspaper includes pencil drawings mounted on canvas, paintings evoking the pop art of the 1960s, blocks decorated with geometric lines, pulp-like comics pasted on canvas and a large-scale animation of what appears to be the melting face of a cartoon George Washington.
That animation, as well as his painting of a newspaper with the headline “SPINNING NEWSPAPER INJURES PRINTER,” are appropriate examples of the artist’s sense of humor. His belief that art is not something to be planned or created, but rather something that “naturally gravitates” — which further describes his seemingly lax approach to his craft.
Jones first learned how to animate on a Macintosh computer with his father as a child, though his mother did not want him engaging with technology by watching television. He consequently grew up with two juxtaposed philosophies of life and his artwork embraces the same duality.
His work takes lo-fi, street-accessible, almost childlike concepts and repurposes them into highbrow art. He dabbles with forms some would perceive as fruits of a dying world and recycles them within the context of this technologically over-equipped generation.
Like comic books, his sketches allow one to be immersed into a cartoon fantasy world, in an updated, avant-garde fashion. His creations are at once meant to be funny and pay homage to his upbringing, his generation and his passions.
These passions, which he describes as a “faith in color and form,” continuously take form in three dimensions. His creations are in this way more than overly worshipped aesthetic mounds — they are, within their context, bringing about a sort of inception: A world within a world within a world.