Ben Butler at his Newport studio.
WOONSOCKET â The Museum of Work & Culture presents âA Hand in Time: The Art of Ben Butler,â an exhibition of over 30 pieces of three-dimensional work by award-winning Newport sculptor Ben Butler. The exhibit will be on display from Nov. 20 through Dec. 15.
An Artistâs Reception will be held Sunday, Dec. 2, from 4 to 7 p.m., open to the public with free admission.
In conjunction with Butlerâs sculptures, UMass-Dartmouth faculty member James Alan Edwardsâ documentary âBen Butler Sculptor: Objects from Oblivionâ will be screened throughout the exhibition.
The five-minute trailer may be viewed on YouTube at the address: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b0RaiMsTPOg
For the past 15 years, Butler has been refining the idea of combining ready-made and found objects â objects from New Englandâs past and recent history, ranging from farm implements to nautical hardware â to create new sculptural forms. Gesture, shape, humor and spirituality are all evident in the resulting forms; his sculptures are described as a clean intersection of former functionality and purely abstracted form.
âEach sculpture lives on and stands by itself,â says Butler, âbut at the same time echoes out a feeling of a collective past.â
In the documentary âBen Butler Sculptor: Objects From Oblivion,â Edwards shows the free-ranging energy of Butlerâs creativity and captures the artistâs work process from initial inspiration to the final completion of the contemporary object.
The found-object sculptures, often composed of immobilized tools, draw much from the Duchamp readymade, but also take on a haunted quality in the context of the Museum of Work & Culture. The Museum tells the story of rural French-Canadians who moved from their agrarian-based lives in Quebec to the Blackstone River Valley (MA and RI), where thousands upon thousands of immigrants became textile mill workers, powering the American Industrial Revolution of the nineteenth century. The mills of the Blackstone River Valley were a driving economic force for more than a century, though now many of those mills have been re-purposed or stand vacant as textile manufacturing moved elsewhere in the United States and overseas. A Hand in Time not only explores the notion of the artist as worker, but also conjures narratives of the history of labor, as it has been articulated by different bodies and implements through time.
The Museum of Work & Culture is open Tuesdays through Thursdays, 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; and Sundays from 1 to 4 p.m. Admission to the museum and its gallery is $8 for adults and $6 for students and seniors. The Artistâs Reception on Dec. 2 (4-7 p.m.) is open to the public, free of charge.