A pizza slice, a popcorn box, French fries, a taco, a can of Orange Crush — Ry Rocklen’s new body of work begins with an eccentric set of handmade costumes depicting only handheld eats. When the costumes are worn, pepperoni and all, they consume the consumer rather than the other way around.
Fast-food is made slow, Pop art deindustrialized.
At Honor Fraser Gallery, Rocklen’s “food groups” are laid out on a big, red-checked tablecloth unfurled on the floor, with one end suspended from the ceiling. The cloth doubles as a theatrical curtain, behind which a giant, lumbering humanoid figure lurks, assembled from cushy pillows. The nod to Claes Oldenburg’s groundbreaking 1962 soft sculptures of a monumentally scaled hamburger, cake and ice cream cone is elliptically made, along with a surreal side glance to Mike Kelley’s sculptures of plush toys.
A suite of jacquard cotton banners features woven images of full-length, life-size figures of the artist and his friends happily wearing the tasty garb. They’re like nerdy partiers who have escaped the transactional confinement of commercials for Fruit of the Loom underwear and Heinz ketchup.
Elsewhere, the cohorts turn up in miniature form, joined by a pickle, a frosted cupcake, a hamburger and other edible items, now as collectible dolls lined up along a table pedestal. Rocklen ends the cheery show with a long, witty video in which, among much else, a taco and a soda can shyly try to hook up, punning on Crush with comic results.
The wackiness has a serious core. When the video suddenly hurls expletives at the cruelty of President Trump, like a television hand-off to “a word from our sponsor,” the abrupt gesture thrusts into high relief the redemptive catharsis of having smart fun. And now we return to our regularly scheduled program.