Mr. Navarro’s edible drawings fit into the tradition of food as performance or medium: the culinary manifestoes of the Futurists and Surrealists; the communal dining happenings of Gordon Matta-Clark, Rirkrit Tiravanija and Jennifer Rubell; Joseph Beuys’s use of chocolate, lard and dried meat.
But Mr. Navarro is an outlier, Mr. Littman asserted.
“I’ve eaten Paul McCarthy sculptures or Dieter Roth sculptures, but they are made from chocolate or bubble gum,” he said. “But in the 11 years I’ve been here no artist has explored eating a drawing as a possibility.”
Ms. Güiraldes and Mr. Littman (who begins a new role as director of the Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum in May) both suggested that Mr. Navarro’s work might have more in common with William Pope.L’s “Eating The Wall Street Journal” (2000), in which the artist sat on a toilet suspended in the air and ate pieces of the newspaper to “digest the news” or Felix Gonzalez-Torres’s candy-mound portraits of his lover who was dying of AIDS, in which visitors are invited to take a piece as a representation of his diminishing weight.
And while Mr. Navarro is not religious, it’s hard not to think of the biblical passage in which Ezekiel eats a scroll so he can internalize and speak the word of God. Mr. Navarro also cites cannibalism as an influence, noting how some societies eat humans to gain their power and strengths. The thought did not elude me when I spotted a drawing at the diner of a bald entity with a giant eyeball connected to a coiling intestine — a frequent motif in his edible work. It looked like a totemic image from another galaxy.
Mr. Navarro gently tore apart the drawing and placed it on the surface of the soup, and the paper slowly transformed into a nearly translucent, gelatinous skin, leaving the black outline of the image still visible. “It’s like a soup tattoo,” he observed. It also added some welcome texture to the cream of broccoli, we both agreed.
After taking a few bites, he sighed with relief. “It’s liberating to think about the drawings leaving the archive,” he said. “There is so much mummification in art. You have to think about how it’s shown and how it’s collected and stored and archived.”
A few days later, on a cold evening at the Drawing Center, Mr. Navarro prepared a spicy vegetable soup in a giant pot on a hot plate. He dissolved four sheets of a drawing of a multinosed creature into the pot, and visitors were offered a cup as they streamed through.
“It’s a different way of digesting it, much more visceral,” said Jessica Kaire, who had also eaten a Gonzalez-Torres candy.
When asked if ingesting the drawing made it more memorable, the art historian and critic Alex Kitnick replied, “Ask me tomorrow.”