The specials on the menu at M+B art gallery include a smashed Big Mac in a plexiglass box, two ceramic sardines in a dish and a splattering of spaghetti on linen.
The food-themed pieces comprise Los Angeles gallery M+B’s current exhibition, “Please Have Enough Acid in the Dish,” which launched July 7 and runs until Sept. 2.The exhibit highlights the work of 37 Los Angeles-based artists, including art pieces by alumni Kim Fisher, Matthew Brandt, Sean Raspet and Calvin Marcus. Each art piece is influenced by food, so artists used food either as the subject or as the medium in creating works that reflect Los Angeles food culture, said assistant director of M+B Sonny Ruscha Granade.
Creating such a broad theme, like food, for the gallery gave artists the freedom to come up with a smorgasbord of work, Granade said.
“The works we got for this show were all quite random – there was freeness to everything,” Granade said. “We really gave artists carte blanche.”
Vinny Dotolo, a chef and owner of L.A. eateries including Animal and Trois Mecs, organized the gallery in an attempt to demonstrate the intersections between art and everyday life in Los Angeles. The title of the exhibit was also a Dotolo creation, stemming from a note he said he once jotted to one of his cooks saying, “please have enough acid in the dish,” since his cuisine is famous for its lemony and vinegary bite.
Dotolo has long been involved in the contemporary art scene, he said. His restaurants have been used for catering services at art galleries in the past, but curating M+B’s gallery gave him a new way to bring food to the fine arts world.
“I wanted to put together a show that represented Los Angeles,” Dotolo said. “The exhibition is a nice mix and all the work is really different, just as the food scene here is really diverse.”
To select the artists and works to put on display at M+B for “Please Have Enough Acid in the Dish,” Dotolo said he began with a lengthy list of some of his personal favorite Los Angeles artists, slowly whittling the roster to the 37 participants. One of his favorite pieces was by 2015 alumnus Calvin Marcus, whose sculpture “Fish in Dish” features two side-by-side ceramic grilled fish on a plain white plate as a straightforward representation of everyday food, he said.
“The exhibit is supposed to be lighthearted and fun and I think his work embodies that spirit.” Dotolo said. “His work has a sense of humor.”
Like a true eating experience, the gallery engages all the senses, Dotolo said. Alumnus Sean Raspet isolated tastes of food into an assortment of five flavored waters for his piece, which gallery guests can actually drink for themselves. He was inspired to experiment with flavor to break free from the notion of art as a purely visual experience, he said.
“Most people consider an art work to be a singular entity — you can’t cut a painting in half and have each half count as a singular entity,” Raspet said. “But a flavor can exist as a drop in a bucket of water or a full tank of flavor.”
Raspet said his use of synthetic flavors in his water samples could suggest a connection to superficiality in Los Angeles culture.
“A lot of people associate LA with it’s artificiality,” Raspet said. “I’m experiencing that with artificial flavors.”
Alumna Kim Fisher injected pieces of Los Angeles food culture into her work by using LA-based magazines. She created her gallery piece, “Magazine Painting (Spaghetti),” by ripping a picture of pasta from a 1980s edition of “Interview” magazine and then juxtaposing the image against a black linen background, she said.
“When I saw the spaghetti image, it was just this sensual and enticing thing,” Fisher said. “It looks a little like a sea creature or guts, but it’s also this thing you can eat.”
When she visited the gallery herself and saw her picture among 36 other food-themed works, Fisher said she was amazed by the sheer variety of ways her colleagues had incorporated food in their pieces.
“There are so many people in the Los Angeles arts community and you don’t always get a chance to be in shows with that many people,” Fisher said. “But something like food really brings everyone together.”
Dotolo said coming up with a complex menu of food-focused work was the intention for the show. The pieces — whether a sculpture, picture or a literal flavor — each represent food in a way that some audience member can find appealing.
“Food is a major part of people’s lives, whether they appreciate it at a high level or not,” Dotolo said. “It’s the same thing as seeing a piece of art — everybody has their own perception.”