Meat Art Gallery Show: 'Meat After Meat Joy' [food art]
Meat After Meat Joy is a group exhibition of contemporary artists who use meat in their work, currently running at the Daneyal Mahmood Gallery in New York City. Curated by Heide Hatry, the show's title refers Carolee Schneemann’s performance/happening Meat Joy (1964, embedded below), itself projected in the gallery. The show features sculpture, photography, painting, and video pieces "in order to investigate the paradoxical relationship meat has to the body."
From the show's press release:
By putting these artists together, the exhibition seeks to investigate the uncanny effect meat as a medium is for artist and viewer. This is not a show about meat as spectacle but about meat as signification, precisely because meat does not signify (a body) but its very annihilation.
Some pieces are kept in cold storage to keep them from decaying. One such piece was on display when I visited: Hommage a Meret Oppenheim by Betty Hirst, a tea cup made of bacon (above). Not preserved in any discernible way, drops of bacon fat "adorned" the pedestal the tea cup was sitting on.
Also by Betty Hirst was American Flag (also above), a flag made of meat and lard, kept at room at room temperature, encased in glass, literally decaying before your very eyes. The photograph above shows the steam from the decomposition, and the small white dots at the bottom of the frame are live maggots. The piece gave the entire gallery a subtle but definite odor; go up close to look at the maggots and you'll be greeted with some powerful funk. Perhaps that's the point, to be hit with an olfactory mortality, of sorts.
Adam Brandejs' 2004 piece, Animatronic Flesh Shoe, was there. Unfortunately, when I visited, it wasn't plugged in, and therefore wasn't twitching. Bummer.
David Raymond's painting, 21 Chops, featured pork chops, glowing, in an almost three-dimensional space.
Zhang Huan's video of the performance My New York was also on display.
In July, PETA issued a press release calling for the show to be taken down. The gallery turned around and used a quote from the press release in the show's catalog text:
Unless you’re Hannibal Lecter, there’s nothing ‘artistic’ or ‘joyful’ about meat... If it’s unacceptable to kill humans for an art exhibit, then it should be unacceptable to kill animals too.
The show is a compilation, a best-of of the contemporary arts scene's meat-related work, but the gallery's small space is a limiting factor, as well as the fact that some of the show's strongest pieces are not regularly on display. The show's press release states that "[t]his is not a show about meat as spectacle but about meat as signification," but it's difficult to not be attracted to the show by the mere mention of "meat art." The shock element is there, but none of the pieces in this show seem to be aiming at a "shock art" controversy. Nonetheless, the spectacle is unavoidable. Once grouped together, it's evident that meat can serve as a source of inspiration and as a medium unto itself.
Meat After Meat Joy runs from October 16 through November 15, 2008.
Daneyal Mahmood Gallery
511 West 25th Street, 3rd Floor
New York, NY 10001