Chocolate Counter

Sunview Luncheonette, Brooklyn, NY

Shot by Leigha Mason

Chocolate Counter” sees the artist Whitney Vangrin incorporating molten chocolate in an ode to a 1971 performance by the artist Gina Pane. In the original piece Pane plunged her hands into boiling chocolate attempting to confront people’s indifference to the death of a young drug addict as well as their impulse to forget. Chocolate Counter seeks to confront the same indifference and abhorrence to bodies in pain and bodies of difference as it is manifested itself today.

The Sunview Luncheonette is a storefront on pause; a cooperative, member-based social club; a microvenue for art, poetics, regionalism, mutual aid, and commoning. The back room doubles
as a studio and incubator for the design, publication, and distribution of printed ephemera.

In Vangrin's 2014 performance Chocolate Counter, a distorted nostalgia reaches, fittingly, truly saccharine levels with echoey excerpts from the scores of films like Disney's Snow White and Alice in Wonderland, wafting in-and-out over a continuous chorus of songbirds. Vangrin spends about half-an-hour spreading melted chocolate across the entire surface of a long Formica countertop in Brooklyn's closed-down Sunview Luncheonette diner. She moves sometimes dreamily, sometimes with a more frenzied air, depending on what the soundtrack is doing. Liquid chocolate drips freely onto the floor as she pushes it back and forth along the counter. She then scrapes it all up again and spends the next half-hour cleaning everything, seemingly as quickly as possible and with some palpable anxiety, but using only dish soap and paper towels. The work is reminiscent of both Oscar Murillo's 2014 exhibition at David Zwriner, A Mercantile Novel, and Kara Walker's major 2014 show, A Subtlety, in its examination of class, pleasure, consumption, material and immaterial labor, and the place of various bodies in the severely corroded underpinnings of the American Dream. Chocolate Counter is in fact based directly on a 1971 piece by Gina Pane, in which the performance artist dipped her hands into boiling chocolate as a way to personally process and publicly draw attention to the social indifference to the death of a drug addict.-Kyra Kordoski

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