Ben Frost subverts the iconography of mainstream media in new show, Friends in High Places
Australian contemporary artist Ben Frost returns to Los Angeles' Corey Helford Gallery with Friends in High Places, a solo exhibition that mashes up and subverts the imagery of mainstream media and branding.
Marking Ben's first show at CHG since 2019's Pure Sugar, Friends in High Places sees the artist play with mediums as diverse as graffiti, collage, photo-realism and sign-writing in a series of bold images. Running in the Main Gallery from 17 September, the show promises to be packed with the instantly recognisable style that has made Ben a globally-renowned creator.
For his upcoming show, Ben trains his artistic crosshairs on consumer culture by playing with franchise mascots such as Bart Simpson and Pikachu and recontextualising by placing them in new yet strangely suitable situations like disposable packaging. The resulting art carries a tension where Ben both criticises yet begrudgingly celebrates this way of life.
On top of this, Ben blurs the lines between the addictive experience of late-stage capitalism's thirst for consumption with the equally irresistible desire for seductive products. The result is a series of work which wrestles with a love/hate relationship with these products and the characters who sell them to use.
Ben explains: "Using some of the most beloved characters and mascots from my childhood, the paintings reflect a darker side to their natures. Super Mario flies high through a k-hole, Fred Flintstone and Grogu pass joints, and it's revealed what kind of 'power pills' Pac-Man is really gobbling.
"These 'friends in high places' reflect a type of drug-fuelled hyper-consumerism, endlessly selling products of any morality with their cheery dead-eye stares."
Lovingly created and painted onto a board, these images take these characters and filter them onto the surfaces of oversized McDonald's fries containers and re-creations of luxury fashion bags. "The contrast between fast-food and high-end fashion is one of status and attainability, but they are all icons of desire," Ben reveals.
"The characters express varied emotions, but there is an underlying sense of betrayal towards the objects of their desire. Whether flavour has not been achieved or status attained, these paintings explore the impulses and perceptions we have in the consumer experience."
By focusing on an evolution from small, hand-painted packages all the way up to larger works, the piece of work on display at Friends in High Places also explore scale and format within a Pop Art context, achieving a sculptural quality via thick synthetic ropes or layers of laser-cut wood.
Ben adds: "The larger works are made in their component parts and are bolted together, such that where flaps or folds join, there is a distinct space between the parts. Using a vinyl-cut stencil technique, the works are made using acrylic paint, with the black layer as spray paint.
"This gives the work a very flat, high-quality finish. Friends in High Places is my first exhibition since lockdown and represents works made within the last nine months in my studio in Northcote, Melbourne, Australia."