American, b. 1957
Ice Cream Social, 1993–2008
Participatory artwork performed at the Smart Museum of Art, June 10, 2012; and installation including artist’s books, ceramics, chromogenic prints (exhibition prints), magnets, refrigerator, and video (color, sound 8:38). Installation dimensions variable.
Courtesy the artist.
“Are you a Socialist or a Socialite?” With its wry, ambiguous blend of pleasure and power, this question is at the heart of David Robbin’s long-term project Ice Cream Social. This new installation suggests some of the project’s many faces: photographs document Ice Cream Social events around the world, the monitor displays a TV pilot Robbins produced for the Sundance channel, the stand displays the Ice Cream Social novella, and on the wall you’ll find the invocation used to begin every Ice Cream Social.
The project began in the 1990s, when Robbins commissioned another artist to make an abstract painting using the pink and brown palette of the Baskin-Robbins ice cream chain (no relation). He exhibited the paintings in one Baskin-Robbins store in New York. The success of the opening party inspired him to delve further into the themes, visual language, and social import of the American tradition of the ice cream social, thereby updating and reinventing a ritual usually identified with small town life. Robbins has since hosted ice cream socials around the world. Visually, the events always maintain the restricted Baskin-Robbins palette, and details such as cake decorations evoke a sweetly surreal alternate universe. Robbins mixes truly pleasurable, even nostalgic social experiences with a highly self-conscious awareness of the ways that our desires for are manipulated by all kinds of cultural and commercial forces.