Feast: Radical Hospitality in Contemporary Art, SITE Santa Fe, 1606 Paseo de Peralta, 505-989-1199; through May 18
Visitors have enjoyed a steady stream of Conceptualist art at SITE Santa Fe over the years, sometimes at the expense, often deliberate, of aesthetic considerations. Feast: Radical Hospitality in Contemporary Art, now at its third venue since its inception at the University of Chicago’s Smart Museum of Art in 2012, is not the most memorable exhibit to pass through SITE. The exhibition’s focus is the critical role of food in fostering human interactions in social and political spheres through the simple act of sharing a meal. It attempts to position the work of contemporary artists and artist collaboratives within a historical context — and that is part of its problem. Many of the projects and performances commemorated here were public events or happenings staged long ago with little left over to sink your teeth into other than photographs, video recordings, and documentary materials. Bonnie Sherk’s Public Lunch, for instance, a performance piece the artist did while sitting in a cage by the lion exhibit at the San Francisco Zoo in 1971, was an unexpected and perhaps uncomfortable sight for zoo-goers. The newer piece of the same title, comprising Sherk’s photographs of the event, was included in last year’s State of Mind: New California Art Circa 1970, also at SITE. Earlier and more recent confrontational happenings are also documented in Feast. Many of the original projects stand on their own merit, but the current installations based on them do not. The supporting material, which threatens to drown entire installations in memorabilia, does little to enhance or deepen appreciation for the artwork. Textual components discuss the relevance of and ideas behind the art and documented performance pieces. When the text is more interesting than the art, the experience is like a meal that doesn’t live up to its description on the menu.
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