Exhibition Paper (Jenna Speare)

Jenna Speare

ARTH 3539

25 April 2012


Gallery/ Exhibit Review

BMoCA presents: Viviane Le Courtois’ Edible?

The Boulder Museum of Contemporary Arts is currently showcasing an artist who has been working with food as a source of inspiration and has been creating process based and conceptual installations since 1989. Her work is inspired by her surroundings and consumer culture wherever she lives or travels. She constantly uses found material or food for her artwork and continues to do so even 20 years later. She received her Masters in sculpture and installation from the School of Art and Research in Nice, France, and after extensive travels in Asia, she moved to the US and worked towards her MA in Art History from the University of Denver, where she received her diploma in 2000. Since then she has been featured in various museums and galleries around the world and works today as a curator, a teacher, and an artist. We are lucky to have a variety of her work here in Boulder at the BMoCA.

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Viviane Le Coutois Edible?

On a gorgeous day hinting at spring warmth, I couldn’t resist the urge to skip class, enjoy the weather, and stroll across town for a long awaited visit to the BMoCa. The BMoCA, Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art, resides next to the Boulder Creek and is based in a historic landmark building in the heart of downtown Boulder. As I entered the humble red brick building, I was delighted to discover the admission to be an affordable $4 for students and $5 for adults. Their spring exhibition involved two installations; Viviane Le Coutois’ Edible? and Jason Rogenes’ SP4C3CR4FT open until June 17, 2012. Both exhibitions reflect on consumer culture in different ways. However, Viviane Le Coutois’ installation was particularly interesting, exploring the dichotomy between organic and mass-produced consumerism. Her newly commissioned live interactive installation, The Garden of Earthly Delights, was contrasted by a display of sarcastically mocked products and ideas associated with unhealthy consumerism. Viviane Le Coutois’ exhibition provided a rejuvenating space for contemplation, challenging my inner fat kid to choose between a healthy meal afterwards or a delicious package preserved snack.

Within the confines of the BMoCA, I experienced something marvelous. For the first time in my art viewing experience I was alone in the gallery… me, myself, and I. Soaking up the essence of a seemingly rare occasion, I took my time to enjoy and interact with the work; exploring possible intentions of the artist and reflecting on my relationship to the media presented. The layout of the gallery was simple. Within the first major exhibition space was Viviane Le Coutois’ The Garden of Earthly Delights. The desk clerk advised me to end with this space and rather begin with the other half of her installation taking up the rest of the first floor gallery space. I took the advice and set out on my journey through the BMoCA. The first work I observed sarcastically referred to the delicious treat know as licorice. Licorice Sticks was a collection of branches from a licorice tree, casually chewed on like a delicious piece of candy. This piece led to a display of molded zucchini, spaghetti, and a pear core all preserved with polyurethane. Adjacent to the molded edibles were a series of cast iron apple cores. This sense of preserved “waste” provided an interesting perspective for entering the next portion of the installation.

Just beyond the candy curtains and approaching the hypnotizing sounds of sloppy chewing, a red form hangs like a slain butchered carcass. Cheetovore, a suspended sculpture created from papier maché, wire mesh, flaming hot cheetos, glue, polyurethane, and sound was originally created in 2002. From a distance the texture of the cheetos creates an ambiguous surface. However, when up close the experience of the loud chewing (coming from within the form), symbolic shape, and red color/texture of the cheetos made me consider animal rights and the vast quantities of meat consumed on a daily basis. Viviane Le Coutois’ addressed this delicate topic in a serious, thoughtful, but lighthearted manner.

An adjacent set of work involved an installation referred to as Pickles. Manifested in 2003, Pickles is an installation consisting of metal shelves, plexiglass, lights, and over 200 glass jars filled with objects and liquids. This installation was created in memory of the artist’s mother, who liked to save objects and kept a cabinet full of empty pickle jars with the vinegar still remaining. Two bookshelf-like displays, dramatically lit from the bottom of each shelf, gave off vibes related to that of a coroner’s collection. I felt a strong connection between Pickles and Cheetovore.  By preserving these candies they are no longer a product for consumption. Cheetovore on the other hand plays the role of a past life and future product. Ready to be chopped, stored, and served at a later date like a carcass of meat. But made out of a mass consumed product of Frito-Lay. This juxtaposition highlights consumer culture in relation to packaged foods and the meat industry. Should we really be consuming these colorful packaged goods or is it better to be a spectator in the candy isle? Do you consider that death of an animal when it I on your dinner plate? Or is it as standard as a globalized bag of cheetos?

Viviane Le Coutois’ provides an exceptional sense of dialogue between her works. The chronology of her exhibition was definitely the icing on the cake. The next few pieces displayed after Pickles involved the human figure. Venus of Consumption, created in 2010 is an acrylic yarn crocheted sculpture of an obese reclining woman. Next to this work is another awkward rendition of the human form created from papier maché, wire mesh, glue, and marshmallows referred to as Shane. These pieces are both a significant size and lead nicely into a group of small candy casted figurines called Little Fat Kids. This piece is the end to Viviane Le Coutois’ contemporary mock of candy consumerism. It serves as a final humorous concern to the unhealthy effects of a processed diet.

Making my way back to The Garden of Earthly Delights, I was eager to interact with the installation. “The Garden of Earthy Delights, a living interactive installation created for BMoCA, is envisioned as a space for people to relax, think, and interact. Herbs such as mint, verbena, thyme, sage, and rosemary are arranged throughout the gallery in miniature gardens for consumption in tea, in reference to the ancient process of growing, collecting, and consuming plants. Every Saturday between 1pm and 3pm, the artist will tend to the plants, serve tea, and offer samples of sprouts, micro greens, and baby greens, grown inside the museum as part of the exhibition.”[1] My first tea concoction involved a mixture of mesculn, pineapple mint, and lemon thyme. The taste was filled with a lemon zest and minty freshness that tingled my throat as I sat comfortably in the space; shoes off and toes free. Upon finishing my delicious cup of tea I hurled my handmade terra cotta cup at the wall. The artist made the whole interactive process a complete cycle. From the growing of the herbs, to the consumption of the tea, to the destruction of the cup, Viviane Le Coutois invited participants to partake in an expressive contribution to the exhibition. The terra cotta marks on the wall and pieces scattered made me feel like I had experienced and contributed to the exhibition as a whole. I left the museum inspired as an artist, satisfied as a critic, and wary as a consumer.

The dialogue between Viviane Le Coutois’ installations provided a clever relationship and represented a full cycle of thought. Edible? presented a balanced sense of playful humor, thoughtful execution, and meaningful content to create a wonderful museum experience. The exploration of the social implications of eating is a unique subject matter in which everyone can relate to. Viviane Le Coutois challenges packaged and preserved products while promoting organic means of consumption. She acknowledges freedom of choice and provides the opportunity for viewers to reflect upon the effects of a sweet tooth and experience the tasteful and aesthetic beauty of organic consumption.

[1] “The Garden of Earthly Delights.” Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art. 1750 13th St. Boulder, CO 80302. March 15, 2012.

Works Cited

Artist/Curator Notes. Edible? Viviane Le Coutois. Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art. 1750 13th St. Boulder, CO 80302. March 15, 2012.