"Too much of a good thing is a good thing."
— Oscar Wilde
The McColl Center for Visual Art would have you believe Franco Mondini-Ruiz's current show is about obesity, addiction, anxiety and consumerism in contemporary American Culture.
It's not. It's about pie.
Artist Franco Mondini-Ruiz knows how to deliver too much of a good thing. Fried is the name of the this exhibit, a splendid banquet of countless irresistible indulgences, consumable abundance grand enough to fill that cavernous void, to sate the insatiable, to kill us, joyfully.
"Fallen Angel" is the head and shoulders of a fallen angel resting in the center of a red velvet cushion bordered with gold tassels. The little guy still has his wings and sports the remains of a lit cigarette between his lips. He appears satisfied and merely asleep. Even angels have their little toxic peccadillos, and tobacco makes no exceptions for the good, only the lucky.
"Stacked" is a 12" black African figurine. The young woman wears red panties with an ass flap, and she is perched on her knees with a large jug resting on one shoulder. On the jug she balances a plate piled high with buttery, syrupy pancakes. The pancakes appear edible, as does she. She is beautiful, her neck artificially elongated with stacked wooden rings, and she is rising to make an offering of the warm and sticky stack, the water, herself.
"Southern Classic" is a slice of lemon meringue pie atop a fluted column. Pie on a pedestal — absurd and appropriate. There is a sign next to the pie — Grand Opening Special. Tonight Only!!! $199.00! Throughout the show, there are similar offers of sales; hucksters' pitches to push you that one step further to buy in and take a bite. Ruiz is making such a campy and transparent pitch to my basest bodily triggers; I'm incensed, and insulted. I'll take two.
One wall in the gallery is lined with enough sumptuous edibles and drinkables and inhale-ables to fell a small army of gallery goers, and leave them laid out spread eagle and smiling on the carpet. The wall is lined cafeteria-style with pancakes, hamburgers, martinis, hot dogs, donuts, scotch and tonics with a sidecar of shrimp, onion rings, french fries, and one beheaded figurine with a Coke bottle plated on her shoulders. The artist's cautionary table of earthly delights warns us to man-up and resist, and have another slice.
Ruiz's mixed media gastro-confabulations are all extremely realistic — as if the artist ran out to McDonald's, arranged the classic combo on a plate, reduced it through a 3-D copy machine, and covered the meal deal with resin, the ultimate preservative. He has a consistent talent for keeping it real — the food, the presentation and the pitch — and the continual fun he's making of me for falling unbound and delirious for his slick huckster schtick forcing me to plow poison into my pie hole. Damn him. Damn me for coming to the gallery hungry.
Ruiz is prolific, his offerings unedited, his mocking humor untethered. He over feeds us. If you can come to this show and consume sparingly — a thing the artist says you can't do, a thing Americans never do — you won't leave bloated and swooning. But you will leave a little queasy from the nagging feeling this Mexican-American guy is making fun of you, your country, even your religion.
Give me another piece of pie.