Viviane Le Courtois: Edible? Exhibition paper

Viviane Le Courois held a collection of works at the Boulder Contemporary Art Museum. The title of this work is called “Edible? Twenty Two Years of Working with Food.” When walking into the museum I didn’t know what to expect because I had never seen food art before. I was really surprised at what I saw and found many of the pieces interesting, especially the final piece where we were allowed to have tea and become apart of the artwork.

Viviane Le Courtois received her Diplome National Sueriur d’Expression Plastique (MFA) in sculpture and installation from the International school of Art and Research in Nice, France in 1992. She then traveled the world and finally landed in the United States in 1994 where she earned her MA in Art History from the University of Denver. Her most elaborate work includes the works in the exhibit Titled Edible?. In this exhibit she includes process based and conceptual based installations. These installations include sounds, the use of materialistic objects, videos, animations, lights and interactive elements. They also include a series of sculptures that are based on consumerism and materialistic qualities.

When paying for admission to get into the museum, the young woman at the front desk asked us to make sure we look at the sculptures and installations in the back room first, before we came to the front room. What I noticed was that the front room had a lot of different plants, with plant lights hanging above them. We were informed that these plants were tea plants and at the end of the exhibit were allowed to pick out whatever tealeaves we wanted and then sit down and enjoy the tea. We were also told that after we drank our tea we would be able to throw our mug against the wall, practicing the same ritual as India does with Chai Tea.

I would like to start off with the back room and the different sculptures and installations that were presented. There were so many to choose from and all of them were really interesting in their own ways. The one piece that really caught my attention was the piece titled “Venus of Consumerism.” This piece was made out of acrylic yarn, stuffing and silicone. The sculpture itself can be described as a overly obese figure laying on it side. The color of the sculpture was a really bright orange and it really caught my eye when walking towards it. I feel that this artwork was an attempt to be a message towards the human race and the amount that we spend on food, luxuries and consume large amounts of resources. The piece showed an oversized figure, as if it had eaten and consumed too much for it to become what it had become. Also, I feel that this piece was parody of the painting titled “Venus of Urbino.” If you are unaware of this painting, it shows a nude woman laying on her side posing for the artist. In Courtois work, she made the figure overly overweight and changed its appearance into a less attractive being. The color made it hard to look at but also caught my attention almost immediately. Overall, I felt that this piece was very successful at representing consumerism in our world and was a successful parody of the Venus of Urbino.

Another piece that I found very interesting in the Edible exhibit was the video installation titled: Pickles from 2003. The installation used a metal shelf, plexiglass, lights, glass jars, with objects and liquids inside of them. The objects inside of them included different objects that someone would never really pickle. Some of these objects included Barbie dolls, an American flag, limbs of dolls and odd foods like hotdogs. The artist wrote a statement under the materials list and it reads: Created in memory of the artist’s mother who liked to save everything and kept a cabinet full of empty pickle jars with only vinegar left.” Even though the artist’s statement was included in this piece, I feel that this piece could be seen as another attempt to show the large amount of consumption that human beings are apart of, but also an attempt as a parody of what we find important in our lives. Usually when something is pickled, it that these objects are supposed to be used after a long period of time. It usually extends the life of the vegetable and preserves it. The feeling that I got from this piece was that we all want to preserve those luxuries and objects as long as we possibly can. They have become so important to us that we feel that we could not live with out the objects that we love the most.

The final piece that I wanted to discuss was the final piece in the exhibit. This piece entitled for the viewer to become apart of it and become apart of something that is important to another culture. The piece was called “The Garden of Early Delights.” In the room at the front of the museum there were many different plants set up under growing lights. They were watered and taken care of so that they could grow inside the museum. The scent of the plants could be smelled through out the room and also a musky smell from the dirt and humidity caused by the water. We were told to pick out tealeaves from the tea plants located right when you walked into the gallery. The artist gave the viewer many different types of tealeaves to choose from. In all of my experiences with art, I felt that this was one of the most unique experiences I had ever had visiting an art gallery. The artist wanted us to become apart of the artwork by enjoying a cup of tea. I wasn’t just enjoying the cup of tea while I stood up in the gallery, but was instructed to remove my shoes and sit on one of the many rugs that were placed for me to sit. I feel that the piece allowed to me experience peace and relaxation, something that I needed during these next few weeks of vigorous papers and exams.  Finally, the artist also wanted us to throw our mug against the wall. I found this very interesting because it was taking the idea of “gallery etiquette” out of the gallery. We were told to be peaceful and then were told to be the opposite by throwing the mug against the wall. The wall we threw them at also becomes a piece of work in the exhibit. The impact that mug made against the wall made an imprint of orange-red pigment that almost made it look the an abstract painting, and the pieces of all the mugs thrown were on the grown creating an “accidental” sculpture.

To conclude, the Edible exhibit by Viviane Le Courtois was one of the most unique experiences I have ever had. It allowed me to see different types of materials that could be used to create art, this including food. The exhibit also gave me a gallery experience that I will never forget. Courtois’ use of sculpture, installation and getting the viewer involved in the pieces were very successful and unique.

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