Ben Turnbull – A.C.M.E

Image details – Kids Have Everything These Days (Grenade), 2010

Mixed Media – 23 x 11 x 10 in / 58 x 28 x 25 cm

Exhibition dates – 1st to 22nd October 2010

Venue  – Eleven, 37 Kingsway, London WC2B 6TP

Eleven is delighted present A.C.M.E., the first extensive presentation of Ben Turnbull’s large-scale sculptures. Realised over the last three years, this ensemble of new pieces twists the idea of a toy-factory: the fruit machine is Hitler-shaped (One Armed Bandit, 2009); the vending machines dispense guns and grenades rather than plastic knick-knacks; and the targets in the firing range are pupils in a classroom (Teenage Wasteland, 2009). The humour of the work hits you like an oversized Looney Tunes boxing glove, but more than brutal jokes, these works offer commentaries on a society where news, violence and entertainment often overlap.

Turnbull showed his first gun vending machine in October 2009. His intention was to criticise the easy availability of weapon facsimiles, but the reception of the work was often angry as some people mistook the piece as promoting violence. In response to his detractors, Turnbull has realized one of his most impressive sculptures to date, Crime Prevention Unit (2010). A giant red and silver magnet is mounted on a revolving plinth and, as if attracted by its power, guns and rifles are stuck to the magnet’s ends. The piece is a tongue and cheek clarification of the artist’s message – and an ideal implement for a cartoon police squad.

When introduced in the Wild West, the first slot machines were immediately nick-named ‘one-armed bandits’, as if they were gangsters single-handedly robbing the saloon’s players. Turnbull combined this staple of cowboy imagery with the dictator which will forever be remembered as standing, one arm raised, in a terrifying Nazi salute. The monster of 20th Century history is turned into a grotesque game, where the players have to get three symbols of the Third Reich to win.

In Bring Me the Head of Saddam Hussein (2008), a life-size Captain America holds the decapitated head of the Iraqi dictator. It’s as if a childhood hero had escaped from the pages of a cartoon to solve America’s real problems. But there’s a second, perhaps more subtle reading to this spectacular piece; Turnbull deconstructs the way comics in general – and Captain America in particular – have been used as propaganda tools, indoctrinating American boys from a very early age.

All these works are perfectly executed, they look machine-made, straight off the factory conveyer belt. Yet, each has been individually hand-crafted, requiring of the artist the mastering of numerous techniques: fibre glass, carpentry and mould making, among many others. The show conjures up the vision of an enormous factory – A.C.M.E.- A Company that Makes Everything. But this is fantasy. Turnbull is The Artist who Makes Everything.

Ben Turnbull’s work has been collected nationally and internationally and has been featured in numerous publications. His latest exhibitions include: I Don’t Like Mondays, Eleven, London 2009, A Nightmare on Greek St, Lazarides Gallery, London, 2008 and Outsiders, Lazarides Gallery, London, 2008. In March 2010, Ben Turnbull had a solo presentation at Volta New York.

The venue of the exhibition is 37 Kingsway, London WC2. The opening hours are Wednesday to Saturday from 11am to 6pm.

For further information on A.C.M.E, or forthcoming exhibitions at Eleven please contact Susannah Haworth on or 020 7823 5540.

Eleven  11 Eccleston Street  London  SW1W 9LX  England
T +44 (0)20 7823 5540

F +44 (0)20 7824 8383



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