What: Writer and editor focused on culture, politics, history, and design.
Where: Art Practical, Huffington Post, Wilder Quarterly, DailyServing, and others.
Why: Élan vitalMiscellaneous: I'm currently working on a new, more readable website. Look for it soon. I can be reached here: mhtedford [at] gmail [dot] com
Varese Layzer. Lazy, 2010.
A minor controversy recently erupted in the highly-caffeinated Mission District of San Francisco. The work of photographer Varese Layzer was prematurely removed from the walls of Ritual Coffee Roasters, a café that regularly exhibits artwork. Layzer posted online an e-mail from Eileen Hassi, Ritual’s owner, explaining the censorship. The works in question are innocuous photographs of suitcases, dogs, and windows, but there was an accompanying artist’s statement, which related these images to the death of the artist’s mother. Hassi, who was out of town when her soon-to-be-fired curator installed the photographs, claims in the e-mail that Layzer’s work is “too serious for the cafe.” She then proceeded to tell Layzer, and thus the world, what is appropriate art for a café: “The art that belongs in a cafe is fluffier stuff, stuff that doesn’t make people think about the tough questions in life.”
At the opening night reception of A Sensory Feast, an exhibition at San Francisco’s SOMArts, the curators asked the question: Are you what you eat? The question, however, was not that of a nutritionist or a concerned grandparent. The question was a cultural one, and the ten exhibiting Asian American artists explored the relationship between what they eat and who they are as individuals and as Asian Americans.
Installation artist Amy M. Ho offered a wardrobe full of wearable food sculptures. Attendees stripped out of their winter coats and enacted the roles of their favorite foods, including strawberries, raspberries, and durian. As participants posed for the opening–night-only photo op, food became fashion, an undeniable signifier of identity. These costumes suggest that when one eats durian, a slice of her identity is revealed in the same way that a slice is revealed when she wears a Donna Karan dress. The food that we eat, then, is not just a passive means to nutrition, but something we wear on our sleeves, figuratively and, at the opening, literally.
“Untitled” (Portrait of Ross in L.A.) 1991
The late conceptual artist Félix González-Torres is well known for his “take-away” sculptures. For many, the only artwork they will ever own is the González-Torres poster they grabbed from a stack of identical posters on the floor of the Museum of Modern Art. I have two hanging on my walls. And both times, the acquisitions felt akin to a museum heist. Even knowing the concept and the legality of my actions, I guiltily looked over my shoulder, grabbed the poster, and made my exit to the next gallery. The only thing missing was George Clooney and Brad Pitt.
González-Torres’ concept is simple: the potential of his sculptures is only fully actualized when the viewers slowly but surely destroy the work. Destruction here is creation. The viewer is artist. Torres’ 1991 “Untitled” (Placebo) takes this approach even further, turning the viewer into artist and art. The sculpture comprises tens of thousands of pieces of silver-wrapped candy. The ideal weight is a stunning 1,000 to 1,200 pounds. Like the take-away posters, viewers of this sculpture (which is continuously replenished) are encouraged to take and eat a piece of the sculpture.