Critics’ Picks

View of “ARE YOU WITH ME?,” 2009. Foreground: Jessica Jackson Hutchins, various glazed ceramics (all 2008). Background: Jesse Willenbring, As Titled: Travel Poster (T.P.), 2008.

New York


Laurel Gitlen
122 Norfolk Street
January 4–February 15

In the throes of a recent holiday sale, my local fishmonger explained the dearth of shrimp: Economic crisis be damned, customers had bought more discounted crustaceans than the store could keep on ice. Alcohol sales were also up record amounts, the chatty clerk confided. Consumers turn to simple pleasures for emotional fulfillment during tough times. The three-person exhibition “ARE YOU WITH ME?” applies this logic to artmaking. Each artist demonstrates how the mundane act of eating can be transformed into a celebration of creativity, generosity, and renewal. The show includes vibrant, messy tablecloth paintings by Jesse Willenbring and a bouncing projection by Jennifer West. To create her abstract images, West exposed 16-mm footage of her friends skinny-dipping to a range of materials including fried pickle juice, seawater, Bloody Marys, and ash from recent Malibu fires. These pieces form the backdrop for a wooden table set with deliciously gloppy ceramic vessels by Jessica Jackson Hutchins, some still flecked with food. Sadly, most viewers will have missed the party––the dishes were used in a potluck-cum-performance held one night soon after the opening. Honoring a diverse set of New Year’s traditions, revelers brought good-luck fare representing various cultures and personal mythologies, such as a football-shaped cake intended to catapult a favorite team to the Super Bowl. This knowledge only heightens the show’s emotional power, as the specters of utility and debauchery flicker like the nude bodies barely visible in West’s film. Three decades after the artist-run restaurant Food, such an optimistic exploration of social ritual may not be pioneering, but that doesn’t make it any less relevant, or fun.