Friday, August 24, 2012

Deep Fried Famous Person at the County Fair

Deep Fried Tabloid (Brangelina), 2008, dimensions variable, tempura, vegetable oil & fiberglass over magazine, Adam Mars

Labor Day weekend marks the opening of the annual Los Angeles County Fair.  The fair offers an over abundance of food oddities.  In fact, the L.A. County Fair Official website suggests, “…Eating at the Fair is a unique experience. With more than 300 choices, undue(sic) the top button on your pants and dive in.”  So just what will you be undoing your pant’s button for? Most fair food falls into one of three categories: enormous, on a stick or deep-fried. Some foods, like the deep fried giant pickle on a stick fall within all three categories. Those falling in the category of enormously sized foods include the foot long dog, ten-pound buns, Texas sized wagon wheel donuts, giant turkey legs and muffin-sized cupcakes.  Foods promised to taste better on a stick: the spamsicle, deep fried burger, pizza, cheese cake, hot and corn dogs, chocolate covered bananas, roasted corn and watermelon.  It seems simply everything at one time or another has been dunked in the deep fryer: funnel cakes, Krispy Kreme chicken sandwiches, rattle snake bites, Oreos, Twinkies, Klondike bars, Snickers, cereal, frogs legs, Pop Tarts, avocado, blooming onions, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, frozen Kool Aid and tabloid magazines.  Tabloid magazines?  

Deep Fried Tabloid (Jessica), 2008, dimensions variable, tempura, vegetable oil & fiberglass over magazine, Adam Mars

Deep Fried Tabloid (Heath), 2008, dimensions variable, tempura, vegetable oil & fiberglass over magazine, Adam Mars

 Fairgoers are actually quite unlikely to find a deep fried tabloid magazine at the county fair; however, artist Adam Mars pushes the boundaries of deep-frying far beyond fair food in his work, “Deep Fried Tabloids.”  Mars literally batters tabloid magazines and then deep fries and coats each work in fiberglass.  The highly specific use of materials, including tempura, vegetable oil and fiberglass, mimic the materiality of the celebrity world.  Mars states, “My decision to use tempura as my medium was two-sided. Formally, it produced a transparent quality that allowed for certain areas of the magazine (mostly celebrity faces) to bleed through the fried batter and take on an unflattering characteristic. In other areas the batter would be more opaque, but I liked the dynamic nature of the tempura. Other mixes like flour and beer batter seemed like they would omit too much of the tabloid content and mask the allure of the pieces.  Conceptually, I liked using tempura because I felt it was in line with the celebrity culture I was showcasing. Hollywood isn’t known as fried chicken or fish and chips country. Fried tempura’s presence in countless chic restaurants across the southland like Nobu and Katsuya felt more appropriate for the project.”

Deep Fried Tabloid (Britney), 2008, dimensions variable, tempura, vegetable oil & fiberglass over magazine, Adam Mars

 Deep Fried Tabloid (Owen), 2008, dimensions variable, tempura, vegetable oil & fiberglass over magazine, Adam Mars

The notion of deep-frying often implies a transformation of food that may otherwise be considered inedible due to lack of flavor, nutritional value or freshness.  Through the gesture of deep-frying numerous rag mags, Mars plays with our desire to consume celebrity while also pointing to the force-feeding we fall captive to. The tabloid, along with the usual gum and candy, tempts impulse buyers, offering another way to check out of the grocery store line. The quick impulse buy offers consumers a temporary sense of control or connection to the world wherein glamour, fame and money should deliver the promise of contentment.  In her book “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle,” author Barbara Kingsolver points out, “In the grocery store checkout corral were more likely to learn which TV stars are secretly fornicating then to inquire as to the whereabouts of the people who grew the cucumbers and melons in our carts.”  Each of Mars' pieces is titled after the star adorning the cover.  Titles include “Brittany”, “Lohan” and “Owen.” In some works grease stains mark familiar faces causing a shift from the desirable to the grotesque.  The stains and tempura coating conjure up multiple kinds of batter, such as a beat down starlet. It can also be argued that the tempura-coated magazines, with beautiful faces peering beyond the crust, resemble ejaculation.  If you happen to come across a deep fried tabloid magazine at the county fair you might think twice about taking the fair's advice in regards to undoing that pant's button.

Deep Fried Tabloid (Angelina), 2006, dimensions variable, tempura, vegetable oil & fiberglass over magazine, Adam Mars 

Deep Fried Tabloid (Lohan), 2008, dimensions variable, tempura, vegetable oil & fiberglass over magazine, Adam Mars 

Adam Mars recently exhibited works with Orchard Windows Gallery in New York and CES Contemporary in Orange County.  His work will be included in the upcoming group exhibition “Futureland 2012” at AR4T Gallery in Orange County from October 4th – October 27th 2012.

Deep Fried Tabloid (The Hills), 2008, dimensions variable, tempura, vegetable oil & fiberglass over magazine, Adam Mars 

Deep Fried Tabloid (Kate), 2008, dimensions variable, tempura, vegetable oil & fiberglass over magazine, Adam Mars

Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Reality of Cookie-Cutter Realty

© Ed Freeman

Ed Freeman's work  is photographic in nature yet he does not consider himself a photographer.  In describing his process Freeman notes, “…[W]hat I do with a camera is "data acquisition" - and that's only partially in jest. For me, taking photographs is just the beginning of a long, multi-stage process that results in pictures that are halfway between real and imaginary.”  Freeman explores both the California desert and urban landscapes of Los Angeles with a focus on architectural facades throughout two bodies of work, “Desert Realty” and “Urban Realty."  The works are highly seductive with an intoxicating use of color applied in the “Urban Realty” images and a hypnotic often-monochromatic palette used within “Desert Realty.”

© Ed Freeman

Freeman strips away human presence within these images, suggesting perhaps a post apocalyptic life wherein the fast food chain remains standing strong.  Additionally, by stripping away neighboring structures, street signs, telephone poles and wires, crowded parking lots and drive thru queues, Freeman provides his viewers the opportunity to study the excessive and exaggerated building design used to attract hungry urban commuters.  Freeman explains, “I'm fascinated by what I'd call fantasy, cookie-cutter architecture, and fast food restaurants are some of the best examples of that. We pass by them every day and pay no attention, but if you stop and look, they are really quite extraordinary - totally impractical, deliberately outrageous, wildly colorful, mass-produced, cheap junk designed to make you want to fill up on some of the worst food on the planet - and they are wildly successful at doing this. To me they are mesmerizing - beautiful and comical and thought-provoking and evil at the same time - irresistible subjects for photography, or whatever it is that I do.”  Contrary to the representations of imperialistic fast food structures within “Urban Realty”, the “Desert Realty” images offer remnants of past independent attempts to feed the dessert wanderer.

© Ed Freeman

Freeman’s work can be viewed at his gallery in Chinatown, Los Angeles. “Desert Realty” is currently on exhibit at the Longmont Museum in Longmont, Colorado through September 23, 2012. The Photographer’s Gallery in Hollywood, California represents a selection of Freeman’s images.  Additionally, Freeman’s book “Desert Realty” is published through Chronicle Books.

© Ed Freeman

© Ed Freeman

© Ed Freeman

© Ed Freeman

© Ed Freeman

© Ed Freeman

Friday, August 10, 2012

Does Photography Change the Foods We Crave?

Jacket cover from Lee Bailey's Country Desserts, (cover photograph by Joshua Greene), 1988

While working as the creative consultant to the Smithsonian Photography Initiative, writer and curator Marvin Heiferman considered how photography changes everything.  In an effort to reconsider the ways in which photography impacts our lives, Heiferman posed questions to professionals working outside of the usual fields involved in dialogue about photography.  The results began with an online project entitled,  Click! Photography Changes Everything and concludes with a book, Photography Changes Everything, published by Aperture and the Smithsonian InstitutionPhotography Changes Everything includes over eighty commentaries on photography from professionals using images for purposes other than art, ranging from a pundit on shopping behavior and global consumer trends to an expert on terrorism.  Along with Hugh Heffner, Candice Bergen, John Baldessari and John Waters, those contributing texts include:  garden photographer Irene Jeruss, cookbook publishing professional Lauren Shakely and author of mycology and mushroom hunting field guides Nancy Smith Weber.

The diverse essays collected by Heiferman and introduced by Merry A. Foresta, the senior curator of photography for the Smithsonian’s International Art Museums Division, fall into one of six subcategories: Photography Changes What We Want, Photography Changes What We See, Photography Changes Who We Are, Photography Changes What We Do, Photography Changes Where We Go, Photography Changes What We Remember.  The collection of essays “Photography Changes What We Do” includes an account by Lauren Shakely entitled,  “Photography Changes the Foods We Crave.” Shakely provides a visual history of the cookbook noting, “The way photographs looked, and how they were used in cookbooks, changed radically in the late 1970s and early 1980s, when the Japanese transformed color printing…In 1982, Martha Stewart insisted not only on Japanese printing, but also photographs of every dish for her first book, Entertaining.”  Shakely also recalls a cookbook cover image produced in 1988 for Lee Bailey’s Country Dessert.  Shakely describes this cover photograph as an in house joke at Clarkson Potter, where she was publisher, due to the somewhat conspicuous fly embedded within the frosting which could now easily be retouched with the use of Photoshop.  Shakely goes on to note a shift in food images from record keeping to the sensualization of food.  “You cannot look at the photograph without wanting to eat the cake, but even more, without wanting the day and all that it implies.  You want not only the time it takes too eat the cake on a lazy summer afternoon, but the time it took to bake it, set the table, and arrange the flowers.”

While one may desire the time to bake cake, one may equally desire the time involved in foraging mushrooms.  In her essay, “Photography Changes How and Where Mushrooms are Collected” Nancy Smith Weber reminds the reader, when consumed; some mushrooms varietals may cause indigestion, illness or even death.   The photographically illustrated field guide played a vital role in safe collection and consumption of mushrooms.  Smith Weber explains, “By the late 1800’s, mushroom photography had become a hobby for individuals and a tool for scientists, educators and artists.”  George Francis Atkinson photographed and described as many mushrooms of North America as he could publishing Studies of American Fungi Mushrooms Edible, Poisonous, ETC., in 1900. The essay includes images of George F. Atkinson at work photographing specimens, in addition to, a photograph produced by Atkinson in 1905 of the Arthurus borealis mushroom.  Smith Weber, a senior coauthor of over fifty publications on mycology notes, “An admirable feature of the community of mushroom enthusiasts is that its members come from diverse backgrounds and occupations and mingle with one another on an equal basis.  Everyone knows something about the fungi in their home territory, but no one knows everything.  Mycology is an equalizer and a humbler of the proud.  Photography – at the intersection of art, food, and science plays a central role in bringing people together in community to enjoy friends, fellowship, fun and fungi.”
Anthurus borealis, George F. Atkinson, 1905

Portrait of George F. Atkinson, Photographer unknown

Photography Changes Everything edited by Marvin Heiferman with a foreword by Merry A. Foresta is available through Aperture or the Smithsonian Institution for $39.95US.  ISBN: 978-1-59711-199-7