I did not know there was a review of my show in the Times, not a good one but a review none the less. Read it on the Times site here.
“Sugar Buzz” is a high-calorie, free-wheeling, almost all-female group exhibition inviting us to savor the diversity of contemporary art made of sweets, or inspired by them. Though the 40 assembled works by almost 30 artists are not terribly complicated, or edifying, they are pretty enough to look at, even vaguely nourishing — the ultimate eye candy.
Walking into this exhibition you get an instant jolt — there are crazy colors everywhere, and artwork that looks like delicious cakes, pies, ice cream, biscuits, doughnuts and other diet-busters. But much like a real sugar buzz, the initial rush soon begins to wear off.
Several artists have made works out of actual foodstuff. Mark Mcleod opens the exhibition with silhouetted images of famous museums burnt into tiles made of cast sugar and Splenda. Designed to change over time, the burnt-in, caramelized designs have begun to deepen and discolor. You can’t help but wonder how long they will last.
Nearby is Andy Yoder’s seven-foot pipe made of black licorice Twizzlers, while in another part of the exhibition is Yoshiko Kanai’s process-oriented work consisting of a Japanese table and traditional tea set cast of sugar mixed with egg whites. Every few days the artist pours green tea and Coca-Cola into the bowls, gradually eroding them and the table.
Becca Albee also makes edible art, baking dozens of Frisbee-size cakes, which she has arranged on the gallery floor in the shape of a spiral. The obvious reference is to the minimalist artist Robert Smithson’s “Spiral Jetty” (1970), a monumental earthwork on the Great Salt Lake in Utah. Remaking it in cakes seems ridiculous, though it takes a swipe at macho earth sculpture.
Besides stuff made from food, there is a lot of artwork here made to look like food. It is hard to miss Amy Williamson Miller’s eight-foot slice of wedding cake, made of mixed media, and glibly titled “I Do” (2006), and Vadis Turner’s eye-fooling collection of confection and cupcakes made of colored cloth and assorted women’s beauty products. Ms. Turner has also made chocolates out of pantyhose and other fabric odds and ends. They are very cleverly done.
Emily Eveleth’s painting of sugar-coated jelly doughnuts, “Repose” (2006), is one of several paintings of pastries and cakes in the show. What can be said of it? Not much, for it is basically a sensual bit of retro Pop art reminiscent (in manner rather than subject) of James Rosenquist’s glossy consumerist paintings from the 1970s, or Claes Oldenburg’s goofy soft sculptures of doughnuts and other junk food.
Several other painters owe something to the work of Mr. Rosenquist, and to Wayne Thiebaud, whose paintings from the 1960s and 70s of cafeteria-type foods — cakes, pies, ice creams — and other fattening goodies set the gold standard in this area. Among them is Sara Sill, who paints delicious photorealist images of tables in French patisseries laden with cakes and pastries. Yum.
The rest of the cake and sweets paintings look better as a group, much like a party with all the goodies set out on a table for guests.
But on their own they are a bit disappointing. Sometimes this is because the painting technique is sloppy, and sometimes because the subject matter or the color scheme doesn’t pique the appetite. I am thinking in particular of Lynda Ray’s dull, murky encaustics that suggest slices of layer cakes.
This is not a gathering of artists who specialize in making food-oriented art. It is actually a collection of artists who mostly do other things and who just happened to make an artwork or two related to sweets. They were found through an open call organized by Susan Hoeltzel, the gallery director, who sifted through hundreds of applications to settle on a final selection.
One artist who does seem to work regularly with foodstuff is Shelley Miller, a Canadian. She applies colored cake frosting to building exteriors in the shape of cornices, columns and tiles, which eventually wash off in the rain and snow.
Photographs of projects in Brazil and Canada are here, one of which shows street children at an installation in Brazil picking at and eating the frosting.
The rest of the show is mildly amusing — more imitation cakes, installations with candy wrappers, and a cabinet stocked with collages of the artist’s favorite candies.
The exhibits inspired an occasional half smile but never really roused my enthusiasm. Or maybe it was that the buzz I had experienced upon entering this colorful display was beginning to wear off.