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Ben Butler: Cloud Morphology

10/03/14 – 11/01/14
8:00 am – 5:00 pm

Crosstown Arts is pleased to present Cloud Morphology, an exhibition of new sculpture by Memphis artist Ben Butler.

Screen Shot 2015-06-11 at 2.12.53 PM

Photo: Chip Pankey

Artist Statement

Every thing, under close enough observation, will reveal the complete story of its making.

In and around Blue Hill, Maine, the blueberry fields are littered with the stones, boulders really, which were dropped by migrating glaciers during the last ice age.  They are not indigenous like the bedrock, they are visitors, and they generally sit on top of the earth.

Stones can seem like the most static and permanent objects we can imagine, but of course they are not static.  Time spent with these particular rocks shows clear evidence of multiple processes – cracks where an enormous force once suddenly split the rock, concavities where a violent encounter with another stone took a small part away, a surface texture resulting from centuries of abrasion from ice and soil and smaller rocks, and a general smoothness, a softening of all features, from the gentle but endlessly persistent wind and rain.  In the quiet of the blueberry fields you can study these features and reconstruct the story.  A single stone was severed from a mountain, tumbled, was tossed about by heaving earth, carried across a continent by flowing ice, scraped and sculpted, and ended up here.  And it is still moving, sinking into the soil, shifting upward and tilting when the ground freezes, softening in the rain, cracking, and rolling down hill, all at pace that is impossible to perceive.  But the physical evidence is there in the stone.

My sculptures reflect the sensibility that an object stands as a momentary physical manifestation of an ongoing process.  They provide evidence of unseen forces, and they point to the distinction between the human and the non-human.  Throughout the natural world, unexpected complexity emerges from simple, persistent processes.  When the order of things is not readily apparent, complexity is often mistaken for chaos.  In the rush to comprehend we often miss the wonderful unseen forces at work.  My response is to play in these boundaries between the simple and the complex, and between the complex and the overwhelming, and to offer a contemplative experience in which language gives way to physical understanding, and slow looking is rewarded.

Artist Biography

Ben Butler received his MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and his BA from Bowdoin College.  His work has been exhibited in solo shows in New York at Coleman Burke Gallery and Plane Space, as well as at Zg Gallery in Chicago, John Davis Gallery in Hudson, New York, Davidson Galleries in Seattle, and Clough-Hanson Gallery in Memphis, among others.  He is the recipient of a Pollock-Krasner Foundation Individual Artist Grant and numerous fellowships at residency programs including the MacDowell Colony, The Bemis Center for Contemporary Art, and the Ucross Foundation.

He currently lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee and Quogue, New York, and is Assistant Professor of Art at Rhodes College.


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