"Food, glorious food! Hot sausage and mustard! While we're in the mood — cold jelly and custard!" Thus rhapsodized the orphan-boy chorus (including youngsters Davy Jones and Phil Collins) in the 1960 musical Oliver! Bay Areans are foodies, so this gastronomically themed exhibit of seventy works by forty artists might strike a responsive chord — and even send you off later to fortify the local economy and your inner man or woman.
There's something for every appetite here. For something comfortingly satisfying and realistic, Cheryl Cruz's "Cupcake Gold" or Barbara Pollak's "Cheesecake" and "Pumpkin Pie" should do nicely. Celso Dalisay's stylized "A Sweet for the Sweet" and "Ice Cream Dreams" swathe dessert-eating with youthful glamor, while Diana Blackwell's ironically entitled "Beer — It's Not Just for Breakfast Anymore" does a similar office for problem drinking, and Pouke Halpern's abstract "Glasses All Full" makes toppled party glassware look positively elegant. Chuck Mitchell's color photos of squashes suggest postprandial activities of a more boisterous sort.
Some of the artists treat eating (once described as poking organic matter into a hole in one's head) in a more sardonic, earthy way. J.C. Garrett's severed head in "Pig" and Audrey Hodtwalker's tripedal chicken in "Three Piece Meal" speak for themselves. Polly Mania's "I Eat Therefore I Am" and Charles Lucke's "Pepper Mouth" relocate human eyes and mouths onto squishy, mordant edibles, and Andy B. Clarkson's enigmatic "Confrontational" juxtaposes a grimacing masked face with a contorted hand. Maya Samuels' rapacious vulture in "Scavenger" reminds us that sometimes we eaters get eaten when things go awry, and Michelle Waters' prey-animal's revenge feast in "What's for Dinner?" makes this "To Serve Man" inversion explicit. Similarly strange scenarios unfold in Robert Connett's surrealistic underwater "Planet Calamari," Barbara Rockhold's ant-infested intestines in "Running Amok," and Gary Comoglio's mushroom-sprouting seated figure in "The Thinker."
Some of the artists see eating as a metaphor for human relations. The heroine of Aunia Kahn's "Riveted Precursor" finds an indigestible meal of leftover chain links and saw blades. Alicia DeBrincat refers to the objectifying male gaze in her symbolic portrait "Cute Little Thing," and Laurel Nathanson's "Candy Dress" and "Plaid Party Dress #6" look back at girlhood with mixed pleasure and pain. Not to be forgotten are Jason Mecier's portraits of Rachael Ray and Condoleezza Rice converted to rice grains, beans, and other foods. Vegetable/fruit-carving demonstration by Jimmy Zhang, local art chef, April 26, 3-5 p.m. Eat It! runs through April 26 at Eclectix (10082 San Pablo Ave., El Cerrito). 510-364-7261 or Eclectix.com.
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