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Cheryl Jackson (b. 1957), Foods R U.S., 1998; mixed media and video, variable; Art Endowment Fund, 1998

Cheryl Jackson (b. 1957), Foods R U.S., 1998; mixed media and video, variable; Art Endowment Fund, 1998

Edible Complex

On View Friday, March 9–Sunday, October 28, 2012

Charles Cary Rumsey Gallery   

According to Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic theory, the Oedipal Complex refers to a child’s unconscious love of one parent and hatred of the other. In the exhibition Edible Complex, we examine our desire to consume and its simultaneous consequences on the family unit and the culture at large.

The inspiration for the exhibition was Cheryl Jackson’s Foods-R-U.S. This installation presents a portrait of American dining in the late twentieth century. The table that once stood for the unification of the family has been replaced by personal gilded TV trays. The individual seating stations are oriented toward an altar-like television. A plastic world on the television mirrors the abundance of plastic food in our lives. These fetishized objects, which could also be interpreted as offerings, overwhelm the installation, covering the floor and walls. 

These suggestions of piety and reverence are further emphasized by the work of Biff Heinrich. His oversized photographs of people eating food call to mind stained glass windows with biblical scenes. Instead of saints, these figures are icons of pizza, gumball and candy consumers. The open pizza boxes encourage us to share bread and the cascading sheets of sugar dots are reminiscent of rosary beads.  

A.J. Fries’s painting Crush glorifies a highly processed packaged snack food and as the title suggests, it becomes something for which we yearn. The methods used to manufacture this product will preserve it as a relic of consumption for years to come. For Fries’s Self-Portrait (The Invisible Man) on the opposite wall, the medium is the message. Four hundred and eighty beverage napkins stained with beer and wine are arranged into an oversized, omniscient face.

These and other works in the exhibition offer a playful critique on the influences of what we consume. They explore connections that American society has to food, from the most basic need for survival and sustenance to the complicated behaviors of addiction, desire, manipulation and worship. Edible Complex helps us examine, who we are, if we are what we eat.