The Lulennial II: A Low Hanging Fruit, Curated by Andrew Berardini and Chris Sharp

Lulu, Mexico City, 6 February—1 April 2018

As anyone who has ever accidentally caught the eye of a stranger while eating a banana will know, there is something rather ridiculous—not to mention sexy—about fruit. It seems like an odd topic for a biennial, which, if we have learnt anything from the 2017 biennial/perennial exhibition season (dOCUMENTA 14, Venice Biennale et al.), should be high-minded to the point of humourlessness. But then, ‘The Lulennial II: A Low Hanging Fruit' is no ordinary biennial. For a start, it’s a year late (the first Lulennial took place in 2015) and it takes place not throughout an entire city (or, as is increasingly the case, two cities), but within the confines of two white cube spaces that total 21 square metres.

 

Accordingly, ‘A Low Hanging Fruit’ is an intimate affair, but what it lacks in square metres it makes up for in ambition: there are 23 artists of varying ages in the exhibition, hailing from Latin America, North America, Europe, North Africa and Japan. That is to say, there is an apparent universality to the desire to act inappropriately with fruit. For instance, the 1985 photographic series Fruitlingerie, by the late Belgian artist Jef Geys’s (who, sadly, died last February aged 83) is included, but so too is Carved fruit (2018), by 29-year-old artist Nevine Mahmoud, proving there is no age limit when it comes to finding eroticism in fleshy produce. While Fruitlingerie is quite literally fruit wearing lingerie, Mahmound’s luscious replica of a peach—made from pink Portuguese marble—plays on our subconscious desires to touch, lick and bite into things we find delectable, even if they might be dangerous for us. The work’s suggestiveness reminds me of enterprising young sexters using fruit and vegetable emojis in their risqué chat; the eroticism lies in what’s left unsaid.

 

This desire to anthropomorphize fruit is, perhaps, the uniting theme of the Lulennial: from Allison Katz’s glazed ceramics of pear-shaped body parts (Arsi-Versi (Nose-Ass-Pear), (2014—ongoing), 2016), to Amelie von Wulffen’s incredible comic book style illustrations depicting social interactions between humanoid food produce (Ohne Titel, 2015). Beyond visual similarities to male organs or the derrières of both sexes though, this tendency suggests that there must be something deeper in our desire to make fruit in our own image. It may be that, not unlike human bodies, fruit oozes and bruises when handled too roughly; it is as vulnerable as we are.

 

Or is it? The production of fruit is, after all, a human endeavour, and Latin American labourers continue to work in inhumane conditions to sustain the West’s insatiable appetite for unblemished goods. This is especially pertinent to Mexico, where the United States’ current mania for avocados comes with a side of deforestation, poor working conditions, and drug cartel violence. Although the Lulennial remains light on political issues surrounding fruit production, there are a few salient works on the matter. Naufus Ramírez-Figueroa’s sculpture of a bundle of bananas, for example, is a piece from a larger installation and also nods to an earlier work, Para ti el Banano Madura el Peso de tu Dulce Amor (For You the Banana Ripens to the Weight of Your Sweet Love, 2008), in which the artist wrapped his body around a bundle of bananas and slept. Ramírez-Figueroa was born in Guatemala, a country that has been deeply affected by the United Fruit Company—whose practices in South America inspired the term ‘banana republic’—and Penca (2017) is a timely reminder of the human cost of around the clock access to our most beloved fruits.

 

The Lulennial may start with a theme that the exhibition’s curators, Andrew Berardini and Chris Sharp, gleefully describe as ‘stupid’ in the catalogue, but it quickly shows itself to be a juicy, full-bodied topic worthy of the lofty title ‘biennial’. Ultimately, this exhibition about fruit is actually an exhibition about humans and our almost impulsive desire to manipulate the natural world to our own will.

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Jef Geys, Fruitlingerie, 1985, black and white print, A3 size. Image courtesy the artist and Lulu, Mexico City.

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Nevine Mahmoud, Carved fruit, 2018, portuguese marble and steel, 7.5 x 7.5 x 7.5cm. Image courtesy the artist and Lulu, Mexico City.

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Allison Katz, Arsi–Versi (Nose–Ass–Pear), (2014 – ongoing), 2016, glazed ceramic, 14 x 14 x 16cm. Image courtesy the artist and Lulu, Mexico City.

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Amelie von Wulffen, Ohne Titel, 2015, 
oil on paper on wood, 40 x 30cm. Image courtesy the artist and Lulu, Mexico City.

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Naufus Ramirez-Figueroa, Penca, 2017, polystyrene and fiberglass. Image courtesy the artist and Lulu, Mexico City.

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Nina Beier, Scheme, 2014, 
produce from online organic fruit and vegetable box scheme, dimensions variable. Installation view, Lulu, Mexico City. Image courtesy the artist and Lulu, Mexico City.

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Peter Shire, Study for Peach Cup, 1979, 
gouache, paper, 40.6 x 35.5 x 6.6cm. Image courtesy the artist and Lulu, Mexico City.

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Luis Miguel Bendaña, Cherry, 2018, powder coated cast bronze, 2 x 2 x 9cm. Image courtesy the artist and Lulu, Mexico City.

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Derya Akay, Fallen fruit (Santa Barbara Market, Vancouver), 2018, 
acrylic paint, apple seed, bee, candy wrapper, ceramic, cockroach, coins, dried plant, fly, foam lemon, foam pomegranate, lemon, matches, metal hook, metal, olive pit, onion skin, orange peel, orange, P, pigment, plastic lemon, plexiglass, plum pits, plywood, Q, resin, small plastic doll hand, spider and web, spray paint, toy bell, wood, 
100 x 69 x 28cm. Installation view, Lulu, Mexico City. Image courtesy the artist and Lulu, Mexico City.

Chloe Stead is a writer and critic based in Berlin. Her criticism has been published by frieze, Spike Art Quarterly and AnOther Magazine. Her fiction was featured most recently in Pfeil Magazine #8, published by Montez Press. She holds a BA from Goldsmiths University of London and an MA from the Hochschüle für Bilendene Künste Hamburg.

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