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|Obituary Menus, 2010 photo: Rob Kollard, courtesy Stroom Den Haag, 2010|
ROKEBY presents an exhibition in two parts of work by Raul Ortega Ayala from his ongoing food series.
Raul Ortega Ayala's practice and methodology is based on research into everyday yet somehow unfamiliar subjects such as food, gardening and office work. Assuming the role of 'participant observer', the artist covertly immerses himself in these environments for extended periods of time. Through his personal explorations the artist produces extensive and wide-ranging work, which he refers to as souvenirs. These works are typically displayed alongside field notes - drawings, paintings, photographs and ephemeral material employed in the artists working process.
Raul Ortega Ayala's current ongoing immersion/research explores food as something more than physical sustenance. Courses in cookery and butchery in Mexico, London and New York have resulted in works that range from video, performance, text and installation.
Ortega Ayala investigates the symbolic, economic, social, and religious implications of food, alongside contemporary concerns such as consumption and excess. Included in the first exhibition Tomatina/Tim is an installation of two large-scale opposing projections in which the visceral and carnivalesque behaviour of Tomatina festival-goers in Spain is paired with an American professional competitive eater as he consumes 40 hotdogs in less than 10 minutes. Other works include a replica of Pieter Bruegel's biblical symbol of vanity and pride; made from fat and bones Tower of Babel, will slowly melt during the course of the exhibition.
Further work investigates the intrinsic significance of food in life's rituals and cycles and the correlation between eating, psychology and emotions. Obituary Menu's consists of a series of text-based works, which present the last meals of numerous people throughout the ages, whether or not they chose them themselves.
The second part of the exhibition is devoted to Melting Pot's a major installation and performance in which the artist carefully recreates a buffet that was served in Windows on the World, the famous restaurant on top of one of New York's Twin Towers. The buffet is created in collaboration with London chef Clive Greenhalgh of The Ambassador. Ortega Ayala serves food to exhibition-goers on kitchenware that was potentially made from the recycled metal debris of the towers to investigate the paradoxical cycle of these remains. There will be performances throughout the exhibition after which the artist leaves the remains to slowly decompose. Illustrating a fiction based on documented facts, Melting Pots also includes found images, news clippings, maps, a postcard, souvenirs and a video alongside the pots, pans and serving dishes.
Raul Ortega Ayala lives and works in Mexico City. He received an MFA from the Glasgow School of Art and Hunter College in New York and has a philosophy degree from the National Autonomous University of Mexico. His work has been exhibited internationally including solo museum exhibitions at Den Stroom, The Netherlands and Museo Experimental El Eco, Mexico. Last year the artist had a solo exhibition at The Kowalsky Gallery, London, curated by Gilane Tawadros and selected by Francis Alÿs. Work from the food series was included in At Your Service curated by Cylena Simonds at the David Roberts Foundation in 2009, including Last Supper, a performance work in which Ortega Ayala meticulously recreates the 'original' meal served during the Last Supper, as well as a work from 2003 in which a cheese made from motherís milk was served at the private view.
Part I of the exhibition closes on Saturday 25 June.
Part II launches with the Melting Pots installation and performance on the evening of 06.07.2011.