By Hannah Martin, News Correspondent
The Foreskin Fritters or the Kankle-Kut Steak? Or perhaps play it safe with a thick slab of neck? Such is the conundrum at Lovesick Café, a new Allston eatery populated by adorably demented creatures doing entirely deranged things, namely, cutting up humans into bite-sized cubes of flesh.
The latest from Boston-based art collective, !ND!V!DUALS, Lovesick Café opened in Extension Gallery at Orchard, 156 Harvard Ave., March 5 and will run through April 3.
Don’t be duped, they’re not serving food. Rather, the gallery space above Orchard Skateshop whisks its audience into a fantastical floor of uncanny creations, all crafted from found wood. Viewers pass the bathroom, loiter in the kitchen and linger with some otherworldly beings in the dining room.
“This guy’s Bruno,” said artist Colin Driesch, pointing to a tree-like creature in the kitchen with a butcher knife, ready to whack. “He’s the head chef and he’s cutting up what’s left of a pretty young lady.”
Driesch said, however, that members of the collective don’t spend much time crafting back-stories for the Lovesick Café patrons, as they prefer the mounting list of sundry interpretations.
“My favorite part about building these shows is walking around and just eavesdropping on what people have to say,” he said. “A lot of people are like ‘Oh, they’re cute little furry creatures,’ and other people are like ‘Oh, they look like trees,’ and then a lot of people started saying ‘No, man, they’re just big nuggets of weed servin’ people up.’”
Driesch admits a particular affinity for that last school of thought.
The collective started building together when screen printer Luke O’Sullivan, 26, photographer Dominic Casserly, 27, and filmmaker Colin Driesch, 27, were commissioned to make interactive sculptures from found materials at Bonnaroo Music Festival in 2006. Since that summer, they have shown work in galleries and festivals across the country and added two members, You Can Be A Wesley guitarist Winston Macdonald, 25, and Andrew Meers, 26. Meers was unable to work with them on Lovesick Cafe. This is their first show in Boston, their first show using screenprinting and their first show where none of the creatures are real.
“All of our shows have been animals, things that are recognizable,” Driesch said. “This is our first show of doing something that is just bizarre and almost dreamlike. … We wanted to be a little bit more creative and just make something really bizarre that nobody had seen before or could figure out so easily.”
O’Sullivan said this shift away from reality seemed like the perfect time to infuse his own specialty: screenprinting.
“With this project we wanted to get a little bit more into characters and creatures and less about animals,” O’Sullivan said. “One of the ways we wanted to do that was by screenprinting our own fur or our own pattern on the wood. It was a really good way to make something that was different. It was not just found scrapwood, but it has its own sort of presence, its own palette.”
So what inspires such off the wall carpentry? O’Sullivan cited a range of inspiration from ’90s Nickelodeon cartoons, to “Where the Wild Things Are,” to really anything Jim Henson has ever touched. Ultimately, however, the four agree: It’s a shared sense of humor that really allows their creativity to germinate.
“A lot of time we’ll sit around the table and just talk stuff out,” Driesch said. “It will start with really crude Sharpee drawings and it’s just too hilarious not to build. It’s like, I have to see that in 3D.”
The public seems to agree. After a launch party March 5 drew in hundreds, keeping the space at capacity all night, the !ND!V!DUALS said their twisted humor might be just what Boston needs.
“Not all art has to be like mounted on the wall,” Driesch said. “It can be really fun for all ages and I think that’s what we pride ourselves on. You can be 3 years old and come in here and get it just as much as someone who has an art degree. It’s really fun, accessible art.”
Cambridge resident and Helms bassist Tina McCarthy, her toddler in tow, said she couldn’t agree more. She and her husband, Dan, Allston inhabitants for years, were just browsing the skateshop when they popped up to the gallery for a look.
“It’s definitely nice to see art around this part of town,” she said. “I haven’t seen an art show in Allston in years and years. It’s great that they have a space here and I think it’s probably brought a lot of interest from the community. Pop art in general in Boston is pretty rare.”
Matt Bagley, co-owner of Orchard Skateshop, said the exhibit has been great for business – people just walk in the door and go straight up to the gallery.
“This is throwing a definite curve ball at what we’ve had before,” Bagley said, explaining that they generally gravitate toward showing skating-based art. “But we’ve had an incredibly positive response.”
Ultimately, the !ND!V!DUALS said their goal as artists is rather simple: Make the humans smile, ideally make them laugh, and perhaps incite a grimace or two.