The taxi dropped us at the Moeller Snow Gallery on Bond Street minutes before 9:00. Outside stood a crowd of dapper gentlemen, one of which who was quick to strike up a conversation. In a refined accent he inquired, “I believe you two are late.”
“Better late than never,” I say, “Can we still go in?”
“Oh yes, but do stay out here with us for a moment.”
Tricia pulls a rolled cigarette from her purse, me from my case, and everyone else follows suit.
“A rolled cigarette! What a remarkable young lady. Tell me, is it by any chance Virginia tobacco?
“It’s the best tobacco in the world you know.”
His friends agree.
“So who are you young fellow? And what do you do?”
“Well I’m Fixx, and this here is Trisha. I’m a writer for Scallywag.”
“Scallywag…Now why does that sound familiar?”
“I don’t know. Are you a scallywag?”
“Well no, we’re actually rapscallions”
“Then I guess that makes us family.”
“Indeed, Indeed. Sioan Bethel, a pleasure to make your acquaintance. Please, do you have a card? We simply must have an evening together. All of us. Let me write down my information for you.”
Bidding Sioan a good evening we go inside. To my right is a mural of Cap’N Crunch with his jacket wide open baring a surprisingly defined physique and a long black box censoring his impossibly large phallus below the words:
REJECTED IDEAS FOR
Now we’re talking. Box after box of sugar coated children’s cereal with their respected mascots in very compromising positions. Tony the Tiger shooting up, Ronald McDonald on his knees, Lucky the Leprechaun crucified, this was my kind of party. It reminded me a of the Diesel XXX viral that ran some months ago. Did this guy have something to do with that also? I had to find out.
Jani had his hands busy with some adorning female fans so I investigated a bit upstairs and found another mural of the good ‘ole Cap’n regurgitating milk onto the floor. This just keeps getting better. All of the pieces were so impeccably done that I couldn’t help but wonder if he altered the crunchy cereal pieces inside as well to suit his mad intentions.
Back downstairs they had a table set up for handing out milk and cereal and another for wine and I thought to myself, “Somewhere…somewhere in this country someone is eating their Cap’n Crunch with wine.” But it wasn’t going to be me.
Catching up with Jani, I compliment him on his work. If this guy isn’t a scallywag then I don’t know who is.
“Do you remember the Diesel XXX viral? Were you involved in that by any chance?”
“I was doing this waaay before them. Do you think I should sue?”
Leinonen is recognized for his public, political and popular cultural events, artworks that actively include the participation of a general audience, not only limited to that of the immediate art world.
In September of 2006, Leinonen realized the Art Supermarket Pikasso, a month long project where contemporary art was sold on the shelves and in the aisles of a recently closed branch of a Finnish supermarket chain. Visitors to Pikasso outnumbered the combined attendance of the contemporary art museums and galleries in Helsinki, Finland, for its month of operation.
For Rejected Ideas for Cap’n Crunch Advertisements, Leinonen’s protagonist is Cap’n Crunch, who filibusters the world with the likes of his commercial comrades Tony the Tiger, Snap, Crackle & Pop, the Quaker Oats Man, Aunt Jemima and Ronald McDonald. Rejected Ideas for such commercial products that never saw the light of day tell a puzzled story about the collective unconsciousness. The viewer expects one thing but is presented with another. The main character Cap’n Crunch is no longer a polished war hero but a panhandling veteran, trigger-happy fundamentalist, sex-crazy pervert and religious fanatic.
In response to commercial and consumer culture, the paintings and sculpture of Leinonen evoke an uncertain reflection to where contemporary culture is headed. The totality of the images, logos and characters produced by the advertising industries are forced through collective memory’s filter in Rejected Ideas for Cap’n Crunch Advertisements and although unmistakably recognizable they are redrawn and altered by Jani Leinonen.
Also included in this exhibition are three Pay-Per-View paintings, which come from a project Leinonen started in 2002. The Pay-Per-View paintings have been framed with a built-in slot machine and liquid crystal glass that is opaque until the viewer inserts money to reveal the framed artwork for fifteen seconds. So make sure you have some quarters as I did not.
With no more wine left down below, I make my way up to the office and find Tricia rolling spliffs for Jani’s friends. Someone passes a bottle of Koskenkorva Viina and informs me that it comes from their cows. The Finnish spirit is as cordial as our new friends.
“I know vodka when I taste it but if your cows are making this, then we need to start importing them.”
With the gallery emptying and the storm finally coming to an end, Tricia and I make our departure.
“So Fixxy? Where to next?’
“Smith & Mills. I hear they make a good Manhattan.”
“Sounds good… I’ll have what you’re having.”
Jani Leinonen’s Rejected Ideas For Cap’n Crunch Advertisements runs form February 3rd to March 14th at the Moeller Snow Gallery (8 Bond St.) in SoHo.
Editor’s note, part of Moellner Snow’s press release describing the work has been used in this article. Once again many thanks to Moellner Snow for putting an inspiring show.