Beginning this weekend at Gallery KM, Joe Friday (“Dragnet”) gets to spend the next six+ weeks with Kim Kardashian. We're sure that Mr. Friday is thrilled. At least there will be plenty of yin-yang marshmallows and food-inspired sculptures on hand.
The exhibition, called Angel City Eats, kicks off Saturday night with an opening reception at the Santa Monica gallery, complete with 1960s-era cheap whiskey and donuts and plenty of candy offerings from today's saccharine corn syrup days. What's the connection between Dragnet and reality TV? Yeah, we wondered, too.
“This is all about opposites, L.A. then and now,” explains artist Sienna De Govia, pasting gumdrops with royal icing on an edible centerpiece in the Kardashian “half” of the gallery. “Dragnet is about old L.A., the way it used to be — people kept things close, stayed tight. You didn't let anything out about yourself. That's where my Dad wanted to start.”
Her father, Jackson De Govia, is a set production designer (Die Hard, The 40-year-old Virgin); Sienna is a local food stylist (Grill It With Bobby Flay, Next Food Network Star). This is the first time they have collaborated on an exhibition.
The gumdrops, salt water taffy, rock candy, and enough store-bought marshmallows for a lifetime of corn syrup fireplace fun were Sienna's idea. “I'm the food-obsessed one,” she continues, pulling out a giant bubblegum pink marshmallow and stuffing it in a glass flower vase.
“But the food back then was vapid, bad coffee and donuts. It went with that tight mentality everyone had in L.A. of keeping things to yourself. The second gallery became the contrast to that — reality television. [Reality TV] is what I see today as junk food for the brain. Everything is out there on the table for you to take. You want it and it sounds so good. But then you eat it and it makes you sick. Like this marshmallow. How long can we sustain that?”
In the two-room gallery space, one is filled with large, looming theatrical sets of “Dragnet” characters painted in charcoal colors (the plywood sets are the work of Jackson). Sienna designed the 1960s culinary companions like brass “pretzel” knuckles made of painted polymer clay and fabric donuts.
In contrast, the reality TV-inspired room is a bright candyland filled with Jackson's vision of Kardashian (naked) surrounded by her crew of reality TV star “colleagues” (we prefer Sienna's term, “Celebritards”): Snooki, Paris Hilton, Heidi Montag (post plastic surgery, of course). Rock candy sculptures, giant vases filled with those yin-yang marshmallows and 3-D “halo” sculptures topped with painted clay candies (Tootsie Rolls, caramels, lollipops) surround the celebrities.
The irony of a television food stylist and film production set designer making fun of what literally feeds them is not lost on either artist. “Would you ever really want these in your home?,” asks Sienna of her sensationalized painted clay sculptures shaped like crazy birthday cakes on Kardashian's “banquet” table. “That's part of the point, who would want this other than [the Kardashians]?”
Well, we kind of like them, actually (scroll through several of the sculptures, including the cakes and candy halos, on the gallery's website). And we're betting someone will a great sense of humor will want that sculpture of Snooki re-envisioned as art history's most famous consummate 25,000 year-old muse, the Venus of Willlendorf.
Angel City Eats, December 10, 2011 – January 21, 2012 at Gallery KM in Santa Monica. Saturday's opening from 5 to 8 p.m. Free.
[More from Jenn Garbee @eathistory + eathistory.com]