Monday, June 23, 2008

The Land Of A Million Cereals


One of the funniest and most clever shows that I've seen in a while - great use of American's infatuation with cereal to make some very relevant social commentary.


A Mixed-Media Installation by Ryan Alexiev
June 6-July 12, 2008

Artist Talk with Ryan Alexiev: Thursday, June 26, 2008, 7pm.

Please join us for conversation, wine, and Bulgarian peasant food! This event is free and open to the public. RSVP to info@mission17.org

If we are what we eat, a significant degree of who we are, at least in this country, is cereal. In America, cereal is the most popular breakfast food and the third most popular product in the supermarket altogether-after only soda and cereal's constant counterpart, milk. In his show at MISSION 17, Ryan Alexiev explores this centrality of cereal to our constitution. But cereal, for Alexiev, functions as more than merely foodstuff. His engagement with cereal is informed by his appreciation of its history and continuing importance as a paradigmatic consumer product. Since the advent of cereal in the early twentieth century, the four basic grains-wheat, corn, rice, and oats-have consistently been packaged and promoted in a seemingly endless variety of products. Currently, there are 400 different kinds of cereals on the market, which ultimately are distinguished by little more than their ad campaigns. The substance of cereal is, in this light, ideology. And, when we consume it, we ingest more than merely calories. We literally incorporate a sense of who we are-not only through our identification with an image on the face of a cardboard box, but furthermore, for Alexiev, as rational subjects who imagine ourselves as free to choose.

Alexiev examines this ideology of free choice in American consumer culture, so vividly manifested in cereal, by presenting it from the vantage of a Bulgarian peasant. Drawing upon the history of his own family, he tells the story of a rustic who flees Communist oppression and comes to America: The Land of a Million Cereals. As if viewed through the eyes of this Second-World son of the soil, the works in the show exaggerate the aesthetics of cereal and its packaging. Everything is ecstatic: promising total, immediate, gratification in a pallet of fluorescent pinks, yellows, and blues, and-perhaps most importantly-an endless variety of what ultimately amounts to nothing but more of the same thing.

The show includes prints, sculpture, and video. And Alexiev, in the role of the peasant, does battle with Frankenberry, who wields the powerful "golden spoon," - free in every box!

- Clark Buckner

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