Benji Whalen

MOGADISHNI proudly presents the third solo exhibition by the American artist Benji Whalen (b. 1968), who lives and works in San Francisco. For the exhibition Whalen will be presenting his famous and intriguing polymer clay sculptures.

For Whalen the title “Music for my funeral” sums up the great power of human vanity. The vanity becomes apparent when focusing at the music for ones own funeral, as this would be the event one would never attend. As always, he feels conflicting urges in everything, and finds that good and bad flow from the same source, that the eternal (music) mixes with the ephemeral (his own funeral) in a way that continues to agonize and intrigue him.

A man sleeping on a pile of skulls and bones, a king weighed down by his crown or a man in a tub trying to wash of his sins. They are all lonely figures in existential situations but Whalen also created the opposite such as crammed piles of devils fighting angels on top of a skull or people in all different situations whose limbs are sticking out everywhere.

The polymer clay sculptures are absurd piles of human beings in fights with body parts sticking out. We both crave and fear the company of others, as the exhibition title CLAUSTROTOPIA from his last solo exhibition suggests. The entangled bodies in the sculptures are physically close to such a degree that it borders on claustrophobia and causes aggression, and the notion of togetherness and peaceful coexistence therefore becomes a utopia. As always in Whalen’s work, optimism and pessimism, faith and dejection, adoration and disgust, and most importantly humour and sadness are always simultaneously present.

Whalen puts it like this: ”A pile of humans” is for me the best way of visualizing how people relate to each other. Either we dominate or we are dominated by someone or something. We are always grappling with each other and with ourselves.”

Whalen is well-known for his stuffed fabric arms embroidered with colourful tattoo imagery which shows a variety of themes connected to life, death, sexuality and religion. The embroideries also fuse both the masculine and the feminine in a number of ways and in Whalen’s own words he wants to create an art work that is at the same time rough and vulnerable. A hyper masculine work created out of one of the most delicate and feminine handicrafts.

Whalen has participated at the exhibition “Pricked: Extreme Embroidery” at The Museum of Arts & Design, New York, USA and is among others represented in collections at Museum of Modern Art, New York (NY), Honolulu Academy of Arts, Honolulu (HI) and Microsoft Corporation, Redmond (WA)

Benji Whalen

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