Running now through the end of July, The Art of Cooking presented at Royal/T Cafe in Culver City, CA, is a new food-and-art exhibition. The show is curated by Hanne Mugaas, whose curatorial experience includes stints at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, both in New York City, and projects at the Moving Image Archive of Contemporary Art (MIACA) in Tokyo, Ooga Booga in Los Angeles, and Vilma Gold in London, among others. Most notably, she is the founder of the gallery Art Since the Summer of ’69, located on the Lower East Side in Manhattan. Opened in 2008 as the smallest gallery in the world (just 6’ x 16′!), the gallery is now a mobile project.
The Art of Cooking was inspired by Mugaas’ upbringing in a family of restaurateurs and is, in her words, “a show that everybody can relate to since food is a central theme and source of everyday pleasure.” The artists included in the exhibition explore, celebrate and obsess over food, often with a big dash of humor. The works span different media, from drawing and painting to digital prints and clothing. Some of the work seems elementary– a coconut set on a Vogue magazine didn’t do much for me– but other explorations surprised and delighted. For example, William Wegman’s video of a glass of milk being slowly consumed by—what? A cow? A cat? A… No spoilers here. The camera, at glass level, allows for a slow revelation as the milk steadily declines.
Other works offered similarly-veined humor and thought. Viktor Kopp’s oversized chocolate bars re-tooled the idea of the geometric grid. Kenny Scharf’s donuts, which float serenely against brilliant skies, spoke to the surreal nature of fried dough and heavenly atmospheres. And in the realm of black humor, a short animated film by Takeshi Murata titled PopEye remade the iconic children’s cartoon character into a spinach-addled addict with anger management issues.
Royal/T has gone one step further and paired the gallery space with a pop-up Japanese Maid Cafe, which serves full meals as well as desserts and beverages. The Japanese milk tea (made with soy milk), chicken katsu sandwich, and salads ranked among some of the best treats. Claim a table and place your order before exploring the gallery– service is very slow, even if costumed.
Mugaas intends for this exhibit to be more celebratory than serious. “Food has always been present in art,” she explains in her artist statement. “With this show I wanted to focus on contemporary artists who represent food in interesting but also humorous ways – as food is (for most of us) linked to pleasure, not only when it comes to taste but also social interaction. This exhibition is meant to celebrate food – no matter if it is a gourmet meal, a donut, or a slice of toast with marmalade.”