If you’re thinking about having taking a chocolate fix, it might not be such a good idea to look at Shanabrook’s art first. His sugar coated artworks may give the kiss of death to your taste buds.
Pralines can be more than a round prelude to a enjoyable taste sensation: they can of course also be a slightly disgusting experience. When we eat it’s not always just about taste - sometimes shape can drastically change our perceptions of what we're about to eat. Take for example the ever so slightly disturbing works of artist Stephen J Shanabrook.
“Wedding favors” (2006) is a collection of chocolates in the shape of injuried body parts: it’s easy to distinguish eyeballs, fractured fingers, livers, and scars. As each praline has its own name, with an explanation as to the “nature” of its injury, it’s easy to understand the small hole near the chocolate ear entitled “Russian Roulette”. To complete the series, the collection comes in an aluminium morgue-shaped box.
“Battle of Losers and Lovers ” are minature plastic soldiers covered with chocolate. Their battlefield - dark-brown dirty, suggests corpses in pieces (or, in this case, drops). The artist explains the connection between cacao products and strong images with these words:
“By exhibiting wounds in a chocolate box motif, the mold of a shotgun wound to the face becomes desirable to the viewer. Even though one would not admit it, the desire is there, and so begins the conflict for the viewer. This smell is overpowering to the point were one can not come to grips with what one is seeing.”
“On The Road To Heaven The Highway to Hell” (2008) one of the artist's latest chocs-works, is described by the author as “remnants of the suicide bomber cast in dark chocolate.” It will come as no surprise to disover, the artist Shanabrook finds morgues a source of inspiration.
Cacao is not the only food Shanabrook is interested in: “Hearth of Darkness” (2007) is formed from a splayed and dried goat carcass transfigured in a little boat, whilst the performance “Bandaged” (1995) is created from cotton candy. Plus there are the non-food projects such as L.O.V.E. – a List Of Vicarious Edges, with razors hidden in band aids and candy wrappers; or the, “Moth and Lighting Bugs Collection”, created from the remnants of heroin and crack use.
Stephen J Shanabrook, Liquid Lushes and Late Night House of Pills, Daneyal Mahmood Gallery, New York , till October 17, 2009.