Jennifer Rubell is brilliant to say the least. I am re-printing a review of an installation she did at a museum for you to get the gist of this major talent. Installation art is an art form you either get or think a five year old could do it. A lot like the thoughts of people that don’t understand the contribution of artists like ellsworth kelly for instance. Art is one of my loves and I have studied my whole life, so to see an artist be so brilliant in their medium is amazingly inspirational!
Aside from Leonardo Da Vinci’s The Last Supper, one of the most famous artworks of all time, food is an under-explored subject in art, especially in comparison with how much of our daily lives it occupies. Artist Wayne Thiebaud is probably the most renowned contemporary painter of food, but the work is predominantly lushly frosted cakes. Claes Oldenburg has done a lot of soft-sculptures—a hamburger, French fries, and ice-cream cones among them—but no one has really made real food into an art form. And aside from a particularly elaborate centerpiece, the catering at museum galas (which are rife in the spring in New York) infrequently ascends to something that qualifies as spectacle.
The Brooklyn Museum’s gala, however, Jennifer Rubell changed all that. She staged a series of “happenings” that elevated her art medium—food and drink—into an interactive bacchanal that was truly lavish. The Harvard University–educated daughter of Don and Mera (the Rubells, of Miami’s renowned art-hoarding dynasty) certainly piled a lot onto her plate in her four-month preparation for the gala. The outcome was a display that referenced seminal artists and artworks. Rubell must have been breast- and spoon-fed a steady diet of art from infancy, as child-like eating rituals were the norm at the museum, with the hands of the 600 participants the predominant utensil.
Drinks were dispensed from large, minimal canvases, each with a spigot, which Rubell calls “Drinking Paintings.” The museum wall labels specified the concoctions each of the “paintings” dispensed and the medium of which they were made. The works were references to “drips” common to Abstract Expressionism, but I found the canvases more akin to leaking unprimed Robert Ryman paintings. Revelers filled their glasses to their hearts’ content—and to their livers’ discontent. I saw no shortage of people topping up Mason jars with dirty martinis, which was one of the first canvases to run dry. Screwdrivers, rum and Coke, and white wine were also on tap.
A massive pile of potato chips became another canvas, as closet painters in the crowd realized their inner Jackson Pollocks by squirting multi-colored dips from 700 blank paint tubes. An instant Pollock-like drip painting would form, only to disappear from the grubby hands that reached in for a bite of the art.
Bio- Jennifer Rubell creates participatory artwork that is a hybrid of performance art, installation, and happenings. The pieces are often staggering in scale and sensually arresting, frequently employing food and drink as media: one ton of ribs with honey dripping on them from the ceiling; 2,000 hard-boiled eggs with a pile of latex gloves nearby to pick them up; 1,521 doughnuts hanging on a free-standing wall; a room-sized cell padded with 1,800 cones of pink cotton candy.
Viewers are encouraged to partake in the work, violating the traditional boundaries of art institutions and engaging senses usually forbidden in or absent from museum and gallery contexts. Rubell’s work explores the intersection of the monumental and the ephemeral, and serves as a counterpoint to the virtual nature of much of contemporary life.
Some of Rubell’s notable previous projects include Old-Fashioned, at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; The de Pury Diptych at the Saatchi Gallery, London; Icons, at the Brooklyn Museum; Creation, for Performa, the New York performance-art festival; and, since 2001, a yearly breakfast project in the courtyard of the Rubell Family Collection in Miami during Art Basel Miami Beach.
Rubell, 40, received a B.A. from Harvard University in Fine Arts, and subsequently attended the Culinary Institute of America. She wrote about food for over a decade prior to beginning her artistic practice, including columns in the Miami Herald and Domino magazine, and the book Real Life Entertaining (Harper Collins). Rubell lives in New York City.