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Artist marks Native American Day with a reimagining of Mount Rushmore
Once Upon A Time In America, 103 x 140 cm, comic collage in wood, 2018.

LONDON.- Acclaimed British artist Ben Turnbull has reimagined Mount Rushmore, replacing the American presidents with Native Americans.

Entitled Once Upon a Time in America, the work is part of American History X volume III, Manifest Decimation, which examines the history of the ‘Indian Removal Act’ and the concept of ‘Manifest Destiny’, a belief which led to a cultural genocide of native Americans.

Using cut-outs of ‘cowboy and Indian’ comics — the type that showed ruthless colonisers as a necessary force for civilisation – Turnbull spins it around and makes the Indians the victors, the cowboys the vanquished.

The exhibition, which is comprised of seven works in total, is the third in an ongoing series, following American History X volume II, Smells Like Teen Spirit, and American History X volume I, The Death of America, 2013.

Ben Turnbull (b. 1974) has, since his first exhibition in 2002, created a compelling body of work that draws its inspiration from American culture and politics. He is best known for his collages, however he also has produced sculptural works, most notably his I don’t like Mondays series (2008), which featured various weapons carved into school desks, a wry commentary on gun massacres in U.S. schools.

America and Americana are a staple of his work – he has visited the country many times. In the various series it has inspired, a fierce critique of U.S culture is witnessed, in particular its politics, but also an affec- tion and fascination which began from his boyhood when he was, like many of his generation, brought up on a diet of American TV programmes. This style has been dubbed ‘angry pop’, an allusion to its power and harnessing of Pop Art sensibilities.

Turnbull has exhibited with a number of galleries, including two with Lazarides, the gallerist best known for his early championing of graffiti art and in particular his association with Banksy. He has also had a retrospective at Lancaster Institute for Contemporary Art (2012), and more recently a solo show at Saatchi Gallery (2017).

Turnbull did not attend art school. His early adult life was spent as a fabricator – he ran his own business, and, amongst other projects, he helped create interiors of some of the most iconic London restaurants of the 1990s. This ability to ‘make things’ himself, unique amongst artists, is reflected in the exacting produc- tion of all his work.

The exhibition is on view at Bermondsey Project Space through 2 November 2019

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