This article considers the singular installation work, Chocolate Room (1970), by the American conceptual artist Ed Ruscha (b. 1937), who is based in Los Angeles. Although Ruscha is best-known for his coolly composed paintings and photographs, Chocolate Room, explores the artist's use of unconventional materials to create works of art that confront viewers with the unexpected. The author discusses the creation of this site-specific work for the 35th Venice Biennale during tumultuous year of 1970 when many American artists boycotted the event due to the Vietnam War. Chocolate Room was installed in one part of the American Pavilion, where the interior walls of the room were covered with 360 screen prints made from Nestléé's chocolate. The author assesses the physical and psychological properties of chocolate and how Ruscha's installation manipulates these qualities as a deliberate act of provocation. Stains (1969), a seventy-five page, unbound book is also discussed in relation to Chocolate Room, highlighting Ruscha's interest in and experimentation with organic substances. The author situates these projects between the overlapping developments of Pop and Conceptual Art in America during the 1960s and 70s –– both of which are indebted to the 'anti-art' ideologies of Duchamp and the Dadaists. The author concludes with the unexpected demise of the installation and alludes to the ways in which the substance of a medium can transform the meaning of an image.
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