Ben Jackel on the USS Iowa

Ben Jackel at A.R.T. on the USS Iowa. Photo credit: Kristine Schomaker.

Ben Jackel Opens a New Gallery Alpha Romeo Tango, A.R.T. on the USS Iowa

On view through March 17th

By Genie Davis

A new art gallery space, Alpha Romeo Tango – or A.R.T., has been carved from the belly of the USS Iowa, permanently docked in San Pedro. The gallery currently houses an opening exhibit by LA-based sculptor Ben Jackel, USS Indianapolis and Other Tales from the Sea.

Jackel, who has been a long-term volunteer at the historic ship and museum, will be curating the gallery space in future iterations. But now through March 17th, Jackel’s own sculptures are on display in this first showing of contemporary art on the ship.

The sculptor’s work make a perfect fit for the compact space. His precise eye for detail and accurate depictions of battleships, weapons, and implements of war have been the focus of must-see exhibitions at LA Louver Gallery and in group shows at the contemporary art collective Durden and Ray. Working in stoneware, ceramics, beeswax, and wood, Jackel shapes perfect renderings that enrich and redefine their subjects, touching on issues of power, dominance, and control.

His use of materials and his subjects result in works that are intimate and revealing, while crafted from materials that are dense, mysteriously opaque and dark. There is a contained fury in many of the images, as well as an understated beauty that’s deep, heavy, and rich. He is fascinated by the struggle of man against nature, of the impulse to fight and the hope for peace. He has created works that echo or represent everything from the invasion of Iraq to the Stealth bomber. His long-standing interest in military history has led to the creation of sculptures that depict the weapons and combat gear of war; his love of ships and the lore about them is also a passion that runs through the breadth of his work.

Accurate details, a lush depth, and a signature beauty — even in objects that represent destruction — are all facets of the artist’s work. He’s created everything from a life-size Civil War cannon to an axe wielded by an ancient warrior. When it comes to ships, Jackel shapes forms that are an homage to these crafts, to their might, power, and strength as well as the fact that they are not invincible.

At A.R.T., Jackel’s work includes a stoneware sculpture of the USS Indianapolis, for which the exhibition is named. For those not acquainted with World War II lore, the cruiser bore the atomic bomb slugged Little Boy to the Pacific island of Tinian. It was sunk by a Japanese submarine, its crew annihilated in what was to be the greatest loss of life from a vessel at sea in naval history.

His representation of the Indianapolis is perfectly detailed and filled with gravitas, both a sculpture and a monument. The wreckage from the ship was only recently recovered, and led to Jackel’s recreation of the ship.

While it is certainly a focal point of the exhibition, there are more than a dozen of Jackel’s sculptures exhibited, depicting naval vessels throughout history. The stories behind these ships, or shaped because of them, are varied. Viewers will find a raw-looking sculpture of the USS Maine, and a series of perfect works from an installation about the USS Johnston.

The intensely tactile nature of the sculptures, their graceful shapes, their true background stories, all allow Jackel to create resonate and meaningful work. As the first exhibition in a gallery located on a massive military ship, it is perfectly attuned to its surroundings while being accessible and exciting to the art community, military community, and all who come to explore the USS Iowa. Jackel’s seaworthy work is smooth sailing indeed for viewers.

General Admission to the Battleship IOWA includes the exhibit.

The Battleship IOWA Museum ticket office opens daily at 10:00 a.m. and the last tour ticket sold at 4:00 p.m.



  1. Just want to let you know that your newsletters are showing you as “” now instead of Art and Cake.

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