For its debut at the 35th Venice Biennale in Italy, Chocolate Room originally consisted of 360 shingle-like sheets of paper silk-screened with chocolate and applied to the interior walls of the gallery space. Edward Ruscha was just starting to work with organic materials in his prints, using such unconventional substances as blood, gunpowder, or cherry juice instead of traditional inks. During the summer of 1970, curator Henry Hopkins invited Ruscha and several other artists to make a work for the American Pavilion as part of a survey of American printmaking with an on-site workshop. Many declined the invitation in protest against the Vietnam War; Ruscha intended to do the same, but eventually reconsidered. When Chocolate Room went on view in Venice, protesters etched anti-war slogans into the rich brown surfaces of Chocolate Room, leaving it to stand as a spontaneous anti-war monument, which Ruscha ultimately considered more effective than non-participation in the Biennale. In the summer heat, the heady smell of chocolate was particularly overwhelming and attracted a swarm of Venetian ants, which ate away at the work. MOCA acquired Chocolate Room in 2003 and silk-screens new chocolate panels each time it is installed.
Edward Ruscha (b. 1937, Omaha, Nebraska; lives and works in Los Angeles)
Chocolate Room, 1970
Chocolate on paper
256 sheets, each: 27 1/2 x 17 7/8 in.; installation dimensions variable
The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles
Purchased with funds provided by the Acquisition and Collection Committee