The Land Of A Million Cereals
A Mixed-Media Installation by Ryan Alexiev
June 6-July 12, 2008
Curated by Clark Buckner
Opening Reception: Friday, June 6, 2008, 6-9pm
If we are what we eat, a significant degree of who we are-at least, in this country-is cereal. In America, cereal is the most popular breakfast food and the third most popular product in the supermarket altogether-after only soda and cereal's constant counterpart, milk. In his up-coming show at MISSION 17, Ryan Alexiev explores this centrality of cereal to our constitution. But cereal, for Alexiev, functions as more than merely foodstuff. His engagement with cereal is informed by his appreciation of its history and continuing importance as a paradigmatic consumer product. Since the advent of cereal in the early twentieth century, the four basic grains-wheat, corn, rice, and oats-have consistently been packaged and promoted in a seemingly endless variety of products. Currently, there are 400 different kinds of cereals on the market, which ultimately are distinguished by little more than their ad campaigns. The substance of cereal is, in this light, ideology. And, when we consume it, we ingest more than merely calories. We literally incorporate a sense of who we are-not only through our identification with an image on the face of a cardboard box, but furthermore, for Alexiev, as rational subjects who imagine ourselves as free to choose.
Alexiev examines this ideology of free choice in American consumer culture, so vividly manifested in cereal, by presenting it from the vantage of a Bulgarian peasant. Drawing upon the history of his own family, he tells the story of a rustic who flees Communist oppression and comes to America: The Land of a Million Cereals. As if viewed through the eyes of this Second-World son of the soil, the works in the show exaggerate the aesthetics of cereal and its packaging. Everything is ecstatic: promising total, immediate, gratification in a pallet of fluorescent pinks, yellows, and blues, and-perhaps most importantly-an endless variety of what ultimately amounts to nothing but more of the same thing.
The show includes prints, sculpture, video, and drawings. And Alexiev, in the role of the peasant, does battle with Frankenberry, who wields the powerful "golden spoon," - free in every box!
Ryan Alexiev was born in Los Angeles and raised in Alaska by Bulgarian immigrants. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in History from the University of California at Berkeley in 1994 and an MFA from the California College of the Arts in 2007. Prior to receiving his MFA, Ryan was a designer and art director, and guest lectured at several institutions including Berkeley and Colombia Universities on the field of Instructional Design. His first solo show as an artist in 2003 was at the Orchidea Gallery of the Sofia Cultural Center in Bulgaria, his parent's native country. Subsequently, he has exhibited at galleries across the country including the The Moore Space in Miami, Wadsworth Atheneum, The University of Arkansas, and the Nathan Cummings Foundation. Ryan was recently commissioned along with the ©ause Collective to create a video installation for the Oakland International Airport, which was also selected for inclusion into the 2008 Sundance Film Festival. Currently, Ryan works and resides in San Francisco.
This exhibition was sponsored in part by a generous grant from The Phyllis C. Wattis Foundation.