Friday, March 30, 2007

My Own Personal Chocolate Jesus (not!)

This morning I almost blogged about the anatomically correct chocolate sculpture of Jesus that Cosimo Cavallaro was supposed to exhibit at the Lab Gallery (opening after Palm Sunday and closing on Easter Sunday), but decided against it because I wasn't sure I liked it enough to discuss it. I had decided to go see it first and then blog about it if it was as interesting as it seemed. Now I may never know. Under a barrage of pressure and angry phone calls, the hotel that houses Lab Gallery cancelled the show. The gallery's creative director Matt Semler, resigned in protest. And Catholics (and seemingly Catholics alone from reports I can find [because, like, we other Christians don't care about Jesus???]) all over the city are enraged. This all happened in one day.

There are three issues of interest to me here. One is the knee-jerk reaction by some people to artwork they haven't seen in person, to the mere idea of something.

[W]ord of the confectionary Christ infuriated Catholics, including [Cardinal Edward] Egan, who described it as "a sickening display."

Bill Donohue, head of the watchdog Catholic League, said it was "one of the worst assaults on Christian sensibilities ever."

"It’s not just the ugliness of the portrayal, but the timing — to choose Holy Week is astounding," he said.
Maybe that's just lazy reporting. Maybe other nonCatholic Christians were also infuriated, but the Associated Press didn't bother to call to ask. Let me just say that as a Protestant, I'm offended that we didn't get our outraged entered into the public records. (OK, so I'm being facetious...I'm not outraged, but some Protestant somewhere must be, no? come on AP...get with it.)

Secondly, and perhaps most importantly for me is the degree of art-history ignorance this rapid-fire outrage reveals. I mean like does the characterization of this work as "one of the worst assaults on Christian sensibilities ever" now mean Serrano's finally off the hook? Is chocolate more offensive than piss? And, I'm sorry but "It’s not just the ugliness of the portrayal" suggests Bill Donohue has never even heard of Grünewald...I mean, talk about your ugly Jesuses:

But perhaps worst of all in this is the fact that here I was just a few months ago defending my co-Christians against the irate Muslims of the world who were hopping mad over a few political cartoons. I guess sculpture's too sacred for free speech defenders. If Cavallaro had just drawn Jesus in ink on paper, perhaps, the show could have gone on.

Lame, lame, and such a shame. I really wanted to see it.

Labels: controversial work.


Anonymous Henry said...

I thought we westerners were supposed to be able to take this kind of thing. Especially the Manhattan of the Sensation exhibition. I can fully understand if the gallery doesn't want to offend anyone -- being part of a hotel which may have a lot of Eastertime visitors -- but in that case they shouldn't try to make themselves look avant-garde, and they should know better than to hire artists like Cavallero, whose art is not socially conventional by any standard. I guess at least we now know what kind of gallery they are and aren't. But instead of pointing fingers, the proper response might be to find another venue for the work, and another gig for the free-agent curator.

3/30/2007 11:11:00 PM  
Blogger Carla said...

mmmmm, chocolate.....

3/31/2007 12:01:00 AM  
Anonymous Todd W. said...

The art world's double standard towards offending religious principles is what irritates me most about this situation. Here, we stamp our feet and insist on our right to be edgy (silly) and piss on someone else's religion. But when it comes to Islam, it's all tip-toeing on eggshells. Criticism is silenced and every medieval custom is considered with the fear of offense. I'm referring specifically to all the pious gallerists' comments about the restrictions at the Gulf Art Fair and the Tate Britain's spineless kowtowing to terrorist threat.

Either treat all with the reverence they request or criticize with equal creativity.

3/31/2007 07:16:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

this is too bad

i was looking forward to biting its head off

3/31/2007 08:02:00 AM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

Come on. Everyone knows when you're eating Easter chocolate you start at the feet -- so it can watch you eat it.

3/31/2007 09:00:00 AM  
Blogger George said...

Chockolate schmoklate,

This piece was always intended as a publicity stunt.

It worked.

3/31/2007 09:09:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

But when it comes to Islam, it's all tip-toeing on eggshells.

I agree. For the record, I both supported the cartoonists and criticized the Tate. Freedom of Speech is religion independent IMO. Respsect is important (anyone posting a similar sculpture on the steps of St. Patrick's would be open to criticism), but to be offended by a chocolate sculpture in the context of a gallery suggests a rather serious lack of humor. But I suspect it's not the chocolate but the full frontal nudity that's the real problem here. You're not allowed to contemplate whether Jesus had a penis or not.

And I'm not so sure the piece doesn't have a bit more poignancy to it that we're giving it credit. The blurring of the real meaning of Easter with the commercialization of it is a valid topic for criticism, IMO. I thought this piece at least touched upon that in an interesting way. Of course, I hadn't seen it, so I reserve the right to change my opinion, but I was intrigued enough to trot uptown and check it out.

3/31/2007 09:51:00 AM  
Blogger Steve said...

Sweet Jesus!

3/31/2007 10:23:00 AM  
Anonymous Todd W. said...

As I considered the concept more, I realize it probably has a more serious point than "chocolate Christ" might first make one think. And, a point I agree with, incidentally.

As a conceptual piece, however, I'm not sure you actually have to see it to "get it." In my mind, I can see this working as a New Yorker cartoon. The implimentation is beside the point.

3/31/2007 10:26:00 AM  
Anonymous David said...

Is chocolate more offensive than piss?

Now that's a great t-shirt!

I guess some Christians are very touchy about their food groups. Bread=body and wine=blood, and there's no messing around with that. Very strict mental diet.

3/31/2007 11:18:00 AM  
Blogger ondine-nyc said...

Sacrilicious :)

3/31/2007 11:20:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Sacrilicious :)

Heh!!! and

Sweet Jesus!


OK, if this is going to turn into a pun fest, I have to give credit to a few I've received back channel.
Feel free to take credit for them if you like (I don't want to out you):

* "I Don't Care if it Rains or Freezes, Long as I Have My Chocolate Jesus"

and the one I'm only reprinting because it made me laugh out loud (but, for the record, I don't advocate such sacreligous you hear that Cardinal?)

* "Swallow the leader?"

and my very favorite so far:

*"I Accepted Jesus as My Personal Savior...But I gained 120 lbs."

Mind you, I didn't write any of those.

The rest of you are bound straight for Hell. ; -)

3/31/2007 11:51:00 AM  
Anonymous cnonymous said...

Since Christians routinely eat the flesh of Christ and drink his blood, what's the big deal with chocolate? Too much cholesterol?

3/31/2007 11:51:00 AM  
Anonymous cnonymous said...

Since Christians routinely eat the flesh of Christ and drink his blood, what's the big deal with chocolate? Too much cholesterol?

3/31/2007 11:52:00 AM  
Blogger George said...


It's not the chocolate,
it's the peanuts

3/31/2007 12:14:00 PM  
Anonymous David said...

EW, when you eventually get the gallery giftshop up and running, these would be a nice addition. Not life-size, like Cavallaro's (way too much sugar), but little chocolate-bunny-sized Jesuses (Jesi?), each with its own pun on the cross.

3/31/2007 12:31:00 PM  
Blogger venbolta said...

coco for coco christ


this is a hilarious!

thank you.

3/31/2007 06:40:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't understand,

What are they afraid of?

Somebody is going to suck jesus dick and like it?


3/31/2007 08:03:00 PM  
Blogger Joanne Mattera said...

Hey, you all know the tune.
Anyone want to add more verses?

I don't care if it rains or freezes
Long as I've got my chocolate Jesus
Hanging up there in the gallery

No more piss and no more dung
This is a new song to be sung
Equal parts religion and Hersheys

Apoplectic christians rant
You can't, you can't you can't, you cant
It's high rhetoric (and high caloric) stuff

It ain’t so much that it’s the candy
Chocolate’s fine and chocolate’s dandy
It’s anatomic: Jesus in the buff

3/31/2007 10:39:00 PM  
Anonymous markcreegan said...

"kookoo for coco-christ!"


I get it, they just dont like a chocolate jesus! If it was white chocolate theyd be all fine with it! but nah! :)

I am with my friend (a protestant) and a self described jesus freak who likes the choco-jesus.

3/31/2007 10:42:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A pox upon Larry David for eating the big J messiah cookie...sure he looked like an animal cracker monkey...yeah, right...

4/01/2007 05:53:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...


let's keep it this side of an NC-17 rating please.

4/01/2007 11:41:00 AM  
Anonymous Henry said...

Update from AP News: The artist has apparently received "Many Offers".

Todd W:

Criticizing Christ is as easy as hanging candy in a gallery. The artworld talks a big game but only implements the easy stuff (Patriot Act, Abu Ghraib). Ask John Latham (who BTW died last year) and Gregor Schneider how many people actually came to their assistance. (By which I mean something more tangible than writing a strongly-worded letter).

The only excuse I can think of is that people are allowing themselves to criticize only their own culture.

4/01/2007 11:53:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Remember what I carefull...


...I like the word "lick" to be added to my previous post...thanks.

In Radar Mag:
"The artist whose work was appropriated by Apple and turned into a commercial for the iPhone says he feels ripped off but is not going to sue—for now.

A sequence from Christian Marclay's 1995 film Telephones comprises a montage of actors in famous films answering the phone. Apple's "Hello" ad..."

4/01/2007 12:30:00 PM  
Anonymous tammy said...

I think Catholics should embrace such a commentary on the commercialism and Easter. What does the resurrection of Christ have to do with chocolate and the Easter bunny? Why don't they sell sell foil-wrapped Jesus figures instead of bunnies and eggs?

4/01/2007 01:13:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Remember what I carefull...

When did you say that...and in which be clear if you're gonna be ominous.

4/01/2007 02:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am sorry Mr. E, I didn't see your post before... .

I said a while back:
AD agencies are taking/stealing contemporary artists ideas left and right.

They did it to Mathew Barney, to so Iphone did it to Marclay.

4/01/2007 05:31:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

wakeup call: Marclay's idea was passably original, but if one's art is that easy to effectively mimic/steal, maybe one should attempt more singularly archetypal work(sic), or if not, then dont care if somebody lifts your idea

4/01/2007 10:50:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are missing the point.

Somebody is copying and making money with your work.

We are not talking about quality or criticism.


4/02/2007 09:18:00 AM  
Blogger Oly said...

I'm not offended as a Catholic, but I am offended as a George Harrison fan.

This does no justice to his masterpiece.

4/02/2007 10:17:00 AM  
Anonymous jason said...

What? No Tom Waits lyrics? I was beginning to think that everyone had the same idea.

4/02/2007 11:53:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Version 2.0: carob, nuget, with coconut and almond sprinkles

4/02/2007 03:04:00 PM  
Blogger John Holdway said...

In this case it should be candy-coated.

4/02/2007 03:42:00 PM  
Blogger KEvron said...



4/03/2007 12:26:00 AM  
Blogger KEvron said...

melts in your mouth,
not on the cross!

i could go on for days!


4/03/2007 12:28:00 AM  
Blogger KEvron said...


"all because the lady loves chocolate!"


4/03/2007 12:29:00 AM  
Blogger KEvron said...

"gonna be a while?"


4/03/2007 01:16:00 AM  
Anonymous karl zipser said...

The sculpture itself seems okay, but not great. I don't see what the big deal is about the medium, at a conceptual level. But it is nice to see that people still care what gets into galleries. In the old days, there used to be this kind of intensity in response to art, but in a positive direction.

Hey Ed, what is that number 281481 at the bottom of the page?

4/06/2007 09:46:00 AM  

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