Ben Tolman @ Gallery Neptune and Brown
The recent drawings in ink and gouache on paper by Ben Tolman are on view in the artist’s solo show ‘Weltschmerz’, from January 19th through February 25th, 2017 at Gallery Neptune and Brown (1530 14th Street NW, Washington, DC 20005; Wednesday-Saturday, 12 – 7 pm, and by appointment). An opening reception with the artist will be held on January 28th, 5-7 pm.
The title of the exhibition – the German word Weltschmerz – translates as world pain, defining “the profound depression regarding the human condition or the state of the world”, and, according to Merriam-Webster dictionary, the “apathy caused by comparison of the actual state of the world with an ideal state”. Indeed, the world that Ben Tolman depicts in his work is far from ideal and, sadly, closer to reality than to fiction. Extreme poverty, the lack of empathy, the filth resulting from the greedy consumption of resources and products with absolute indifference to the other’s needs, political wars and corporate control are crippling some of today’s societies favoring the temporary rise of others.
The artist takes us forward to envision the aftermath of the broken systems, leaving ruins as the only attractions for a few privileged tourists to admire. And at this point a division is highlighted, between the inhabitants of damaged corners of the world and the undisturbed visitors, interested in taking the best pics of the exotic surroundings and less or not at all in acknowledging the unsettling lengths reached by the events they are confronted with and that they have allowed to happen. Similarly, the climbing towards a deceiving better place and time by following the same rules and the already blinded crowds, silently waiting in line for their turn, is masterfully captured in drawings like ‘Forward’ or ‘Line’, each title ironically revealing the absurdity of the goals, paths and beliefs of the masses.
The urban architecture reminds of M.C. Escher’s work, especially in drawings such as ‘Entrance’, where reality fuses with the fantastic imagery of unknown matter spreading rapidly as a virus from one building to another, absorbing any trace of life and man-made structures in its way. But despite the presence of fictional elements and scenarios, man seems to be his own weapon of mass destruction, in his bittersweet comfort and self-serving ignorance.
Market, 2016, Ink on Paper, 22 x 30 in.
Tour, 2016, Ink and Gouache on Paper, 15×21 in.
Beefy Cheesy Glory, 2016, Ink on Paper, 21 x 15 in.
Forward, 2017, Ink on Paper, 21 x 15 in.
Line, 2016, Ink on Paper, 21×15 in.
Entrance, 2016, Ink and Gouache on Paper, 21 x 15 in.
Images © Ben Tolman