Grilled: A Q&A with Artist Robert Bolesta
What inspired you to create Value Pack?
It was made for a typography class I was taking at Pratt Institute. The project was to make an alphabet out of any found object. I wanted to do raw meat, and hamburger was the easiest to mold and shape into letter-forms.
What, if anything, does Value Pack say to the observer?
It was intended to be just a type study, but I suppose there are other levels of meaning, if you choose to read into it. I made it before I read Fast Food Nation, but I'm sure you can draw some parallels. To be honest, I was mostly interested in trashy supermarket aesthetics and the repetition of the letters resembling an assembly line or something.
Who are your artistic influences or inspirations?
I am graduating in about a month, so right now a couple of my professors have had big impacts on me.
How long did it take to make Value Pack?
A frustrating day to shoot it. I went home to Pennsylvania to do it so I'd have more space. I repackaged each one individually, and I figured out that regular plastic wrap doesn't look the same as industrial plastic wrap, so at midnight I drove to the 24-hour grocery store and asked them if they would go back behind the meat counter to get me a sample of the industrial kind. They actually did it! It was awesome, but it made me feel weird when they watched me leave. They had this look on their faces like they had just given a murderer his weapon.
Have you used food in other work? Do you plan on using food in more of your work?
The only way food has been a part of my work since then is designing packages, but I would definitely be interested in using food for letter-making again.
OK. Now for the more burger-intense questions. How often do you eat burgers?
Not so often in New York.
Cheese: American, cheddar, other?
Ketchup or mustard?
Hot sauce. I put tons of hot sauce on almost everything I cook. I haven't looked into whether or not that's healthy.
And how would you like that done, sir?
Enough to kill the bacteria.
Would you do us the favor of describing your perfect burger? (Price and ingredients are no object.)
My perfect burger would be grilled on a rooftop in Brooklyn with my friends, and also we'd be drinking beer.
What's your favorite fast-food burger?
In-N-Out! I had my first one this summer.
What topping or condiment, in your opinion, should never grace a burger?
I dunno, most adhesives are dangerous look-alikes.
What's the most unusual burger you've ever eaten? (Or most unusual burger experience you've had?)
I think Bubby's in DUMBO has great burgers, but one time I got one that was undercooked, and I suppose feeling the individual lukewarm strands of raw hamburger roll over my tongue was pretty unusual. Bubby's is great though, really.
What's the most overrated burger you've tried? Most underrated?
This isn't a good question for me. I eat burgers, but I don't know the hot spots. Making my alphabet was not an act of love.