New Work by Ben Frost Examines Capitalism and Consumerism
San Francisco’s Shooting Gallery is showing a new collection of confrontational pop art paintings by Australian artist, Ben Frost. In See Inside Box for Details, Frost lays bare the bedfellows of capitalism and consumerism. As a Lichtenstein-looking woman beckons from a box of Morphine injections, the clear takeaway is: sex sells.
While the “disingenuous optimism of advertising” isn’t exactly a revelation, its relationship with the pharmaceutical industry is becoming an epidemic.
I’ve been using the logos and design elements of product packaging for many years, and it seemed a natural evolution to begin painting directly onto the packaging – to introduce subversive elements within what already exists as an object. Double entendre and satirical wordplay is brought out in new readings of our favorite and well known products.
Why NOT have the hypersexual Family Guy character, Quagmire, appear on a box of Viagra? Perfect bedfellows indeed.
Since I began painting onto packages in 2011, the branding and product titles seem to be more obvious in their possible double meanings. Twinkies, Hamburger Helper, Vanilla Cupcakes, Dirty Rice, Cheese Nips and Hot Tamales have all suggested new and twisted re-imaginings.
The paintings are strongest when the characters clearly correspond to the products. In some cases, Frost comes dangerously close to being guilty of what he critiques. A tripped out Bugs Bunny on a box of Special K works great. But bare-breasted anime girls on a box of Frosted Flakes packs about as much commentary as Ron English’s Fat Tony.
Frost’s paintings are vibrant and fun to look at. Could he have pushed the message even further? Sure. (For instance: History Is Under Attack Because It Upsets Us More Than The Pain of New Problems.) Did he need to? Not at all.
Ben Frost’s latest work, See Inside Box For Details, is on view at San Francisco’s Shooting Gallery through September 29th, 2012. Check the site for availability and pricing information. Click through for some more of the NSFW paintings.