American History RemiX gathers together previously unseen works alongside earlier pieces from Ben Turnbull's American X series to be presented at a pivotal moment in U.S. history.
The exhibition follows the artist’s successful Manifest Decimation in 2019 and is a cutting exploration of America’s political and cultural climate, pinpointing with unforgiving accuracy the extreme sides of America. American History RemiX focuses upon ‘America’, from the birth of the ‘American Frontier’ to the inauguration of Donald Trump, the Kennedy assassinations, 9/11 and Columbine; venturing into some of the darkest days of U.S. history. The exhibition comes at a momentous time, offering space to reflect upon the events and figures that have shaped ‘America’ to date.
Using a variety of media, including a vast collection of American comics, magazines, childhood toys and other paraphernalia, Turnbull’s pastiches’ and parodies’ show America in her true colours. Key works include: a collage MADe in America (2019) depicting Trump whose features have been created from cut outs of Alfred E. Neuman, the Mad comics cover star. This work came at a moment when the nation, Turnbull felt, had ‘become slightly unhinged’. Other works include John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King. Alongside this are his sculptures from his I Don’t Like Monday series (2008) which feature weapons carved into school desks - a commentary on gun massacres in U.S. schools; as well as How The West Was Won, an examination of the Indian removal Act and the concept of Manifest Destiny, a belief that led to the genocide of Native Americans.
Turnbull’s latest piece American Horror Story (2020) will also be included in the exhibition, a chilling collage of Harvey Weinstein’s portrait from magazines of Hollywood women and titled in horror classic film letters ‘Creepshow’. This work epitomises Turnbull’s ability to capture some of the darkest content in a powerful way; using pop art to give his work a satirical edge.
“His ongoing series of artworks, American History X, continues to emphasise the duality of American history: the heroism and the violence, the exceptionalism and the hypocrisy.” GQ
In a more poignant turn, a postcard from an instalment No Guts No Glory will also be displayed. Part of a larger collection of work that visualises the losses from the Vietnam war, Postcards from the Edge are a number of a letters from young soldiers to their families at home. Although Turnbull has transformed them into colourful collages, the emotive wording is exactly the same as the messages that were sent.
Turnbull’s ‘Angry Pop’ style turns recognisable iconography on its head to give a whole new way of looking at American history. Turnbull also uses superhero figures, comics and other innocent iconography from the past to challenge the way we learn about America and uses them as tools of reinvention for American History RemiX.
Since 2002 Turnbull has created an ongoing body of work inspired by American culture and politics. He parodies this culture to draw out the subtle difficult subjects that are at the core of America’s struggle. Whilst seeking to create impact, Turnbull also emphasises the necessity of not showing any political preference or leaning: “Over the last few years I’ve been able to deliver both sides of a narrative within one piece of work…it’s vital that you can both sides of the coin from one image” (Ben Turnbull).
Ben Turnbull has exhibited with a number of galleries, including Lazarides, the gallerist best known for his early championing of graffiti and outsider art. He had a retrospective at Lancaster Institute for Contemporary Art, and critical and commercial success with the American history volumes at Volta NY, Saatchi Gallery and Bermondsey Project Space.