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A Word With Ben Jones On His New MOCA Show, The Video

A Word With Ben Jones On His MOCA Show, The Video

Ben Jones is one of those contemporary artists who makes viewers feel great. With immersive video installations and color popping, technologically skewed art pieces, he draws you in with these oddly relatable pieces that fall somewhere between cartoon acid trip and Macintosh assisted abstract expressionism. He’s a very “now” LA artist and the type who is working in various platforms, from Cartoon Network to MOCA. If you’ve seen his work (most notably at Transmission LA), you’ve been curious to see more. Thankfully, we have good news: Saturday he has a solo show at MOCA Pacific Design Center opening.

The show is titled Ben Jones: The Video and is going to transform the PDC space into a day-glo dripping, art tripping Jonesian world. In anticipation of the opening (and tomorrow’s Member’s Opening), we had a chat with the artist and previewed some of the work that will be in the show. Find out about his inspirations, how his work relates to LA, and how he’ll be changing PDC after the jump!

Ben Jones: The Video is your first West Coast solo museum debut and will feature lots of new work. What was the process of making new work and prepping for a show at MOCA like? Lots of great contemporary and multi-disciplined names have passed through the Pacific Design Center space like Hedi Slimane, Rodarte, Miranda July, and more: what are you hoping to bring to it?

So many artists and friends are moving to LA. I moved here about 2 years ago to be a part of the unqiue professional creative industry (animation studios). When I got here I realized an LA based artist has the access to make the next Star Wars, or to live in Topanga and make earth art, or simply live a life with space and beauty so that he or she can sit outside and really act like a hardcore artist and just think. Its awesome. And MOCA is a reflection of this LA style of art making, and I could not be happier to have a chance to take part in the contemporary-artistic-discussion taking place here and now. Since I’ve been out here I’ve been making animation everyday. The preparation for this show was simply taking all this animation and breaking it down into things I wanted to investigate and/or celebrate. The show will be about “video”; its temporal, kinetic and filmic qualities. And so while I’ve always held filmakers like Kubrick with the same regard as an artist like Duchamp, my aspirations to explore these ideas about intersection between film, art, and culture has a perfect meeting place at the MOCA PDC… like you’ve said. 

A Word With Ben Jones On His MOCA Show, The Video

Sweedish Drawing 1, 2010. Courtesy of the artist.

You have a very specific style and many are most familiar with your video work, some even only knowledgable of your The Problem Solverz work. The Video sees you working in many styles and translating your work to painting, drawing, sculpture, and more. What is the process like in creating a painting versus a video piece in relationship to your artwork? Do certain mediums translate better than others?

“A good idea should get better every time you redo it.” My boss says that. I like to take an idea, be it visual, or simply a mood, and redo it, in different forms and mediums. The themes that survive the different executions I attempt hopefully get stronger and maybe more pure. Maybe in 10 years my style, all my ideas, all my art will distill into just a blob of neon green paint with some eyeballs that makes a farting noise…..and costs a million dollars.

Road Trip2 at Transmission LA is likely one of the most iconic LA art pieces of the year, if not the most iconic. It was such a transformative, immersive piece that turned a portion of MOCA’s Geffen space into a video game. Working at MOCA’s Pacific Design Center space, are there any similar space manipulating, immersive pieces?

The new show at the MOCA PDC is different. It is a big riddle. Or mystery; I’ve asked myself “what the fuck am I doing.” I am trying to answer this question with these things I call Video Paintings. They are these weird objects that combine neon paint and projected RGB light to produce colors and shapes that you could never get with either a video projector nor a painting. While its not an immersive sensory overload, its discreet explosions of video that you should be as memorable as Road Trip2. Bottom line: I didn’t want to even attempt to repeat myself, I wanted to take the chance to get a bunch of work and ideas that I have been crafting and lay them out in an interesting way. I hope thats what art is. Hopefully there are one or two Instagramable pieces!

You are one of the most contemporary artists working now as you have your hand in so many different mediums and on so many platforms. Moreover, your tie to technology is an incredibly contemporary concept that many are having trouble coping with. Beyond subjects and creative process, what is your relationship to technology and art? Do you find that your work is a means of digesting our very computer heavy, Internet driven culture?

I know young kids today were born with the Internet. But I am older, and my generation had the first Mac, the first web browser and I have making animated .gifs before they were born. I am not trying to seem like an old cranky out of touch idiot, but I would think of my generation’s relationship with technology as “Micheal Jordan-esque” (AKA the best).

So I think if you focus on artists like Cory Arcangel or Paper Rad, and their relationship with technology you’ll see maybe the easiest way to understand this whole issue, which is: (and this is my take on it obviously) The Internet isn’t important. It’s what is on the Internet. Don’t get caught up in some theory, learn HTML and make a webpage.

A Word With Ben Jones On His MOCA Show, The Video

Neon Knome pilot screen shots, 2010. Courtesy of the artist.

Obviously you have a hand in creating popular culture which very much relates to your fine art making. How do you find that you fit into the art world? With Pop Art movements behind us, a booming Video Art community, and an endless roster of contemporary artists, where do you see yourself in the current fine art landscape?

Maybe I am not really in either the pop world, or the art world, which allows me to make this stuff. I’ve been able to be a double agent. All I know is that my TV bosses have said the stupidest shit about Art, and my Art bosses have said the stupidest shit about TV. And by the way, the TV people like horrible art, and the Art people watch horrible TV. Maybe as a child who’s parents got divorced I am drawn to please and juggle opposing “bosses.” Either way this show at the MOCA will be the first time the two sets of Bosses will meet. I am scared.

Similarly, your work is very unplaceable geographically: it is so universal! You can almost say that the Internet and other forms of technology are the only tie, which obviously is a very abstract position. Do you find that there is an influence of Los Angeles on your work? Does this find itself in your art?

The first week I moved here, I saw a homeless man with big Homer Simpson heads on his feet, I guess they were bedslippers and novelty sunglasses walking down the street along side his attractive girl friend. She walked up to a garbage can and picked out a half eaten donut. At that point i realized this “heightened surreal modern chaos-city” I had been “dreaming” up for my narratives was real. It was called America, and it lived in LA.

A Word With Ben Jones On His MOCA Show, The Video

Black Math 3, 2010. Courtesy of the artist.

We at Los Angeles, I’m Yours are absolutely pumped for the show. What are you hoping fellow Angelenos will take away from it? Are there any pieces that will resonate particularly deeply with us?

There is an abstraction of the Roadtrip peice, which was at the Transmission show. That piece was 100% about driving though the desert’s around LA.

What are you most excited to share with The Video? What’s next for you and the show? Are there any events or happenings surrounding The Video that viewers should try to make?

There are clips from the TV show I made called Problem Solverz that the public hasn’t seen. And I think this show marks the intermission between the body of work it represents and my next TV show and blobs paint. We hope to have some screening of the new TV show stuff I am doing at some point during its run. People should go see a comedy collective called Power Violence. They hold the answer to some of the riddles I have been speaking of.

A Word With Ben Jones On His MOCA Show, The Video

The Video video painting still, 2012. Courtesy of the artist.

Ben’s MOCA PDC show opens to Members tomorrow evening at 7PM and we’ll totally be there taking photos and soaking in all of the colors and videos. Not a member and want to go? Well, you can become one. The easiest way is to subscribe to MOCAtv as you get a free three month membership. Want to commit more than that? Check out their Membership page and support MOCA. Otherwise, the show will be open Saturday through February 24. You can get more information on the show here.

At top: Dog, 2008. Courtesy of the artist.

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