Artist Alison Knowles made her big salad at the Aspen Art Museum | AspenTimes.com

Artist Alison Knowles made her big salad at the Aspen Art Museum

A massive pile of salad steadily grew on the floor of the Aspen Art Museum's rooftop sculpture garden Sunday afternoon, as the storied performance artist Alison Knowles staged her "Proposition #2: Make a Salad" for an admiring (and hungry) crowd.

The work has drawn worldwide attention since its premiere in Germany in 1962 and has been performed (and eaten) in recent years by Knowles for audiences at the Tate Modern in London, on the High Line in Manhattan and at Art Basel in Miami. The artist noted Sunday that the Aspen salad was actually bigger than the one that started it all 56 years ago, when she and the experimental artist collective Fluxus were redefining the meaning of art.

Knowles was flanked by four chef/artist assistants, who chopped, sliced and tossed a salad of carrots, cucumbers, lettuce and olives for about 90 minutes. Among the assistants was local restaurateur Rob Ittner, who co-sponsored the event. Vegetables came from Rock Bottom Ranch and Two Roots Farm. As the chopping team got to work, Knowles quipped of the meat-and-potatoes tastes of the early 1960s: "When I first made the piece, nobody ate salad."

She and her team frequently adjusted microphones to amplify the sounds of their work on cutting boards and in mixing bowls. They combined their ingredients into a large bowl at the center of the table and, once it was full, they'd dump it on the floor, which was lined with a sanitized green plastic liner. The first salad dump won a cheer from the assembled crowd of 60 or so, which milled in and out of the museum over the course of the afternoon — people gathering reverently around the sheeting on the floor snapping photos and videos.

Guitarist Joshua Sellman accompanied the salad team, steadily stuffing greens into the neck of his guitar, which grew into a flowing vegetable mane by the end of the performance. Sellman, playing notes along with spoken word pieces through a smartphone attached to his guitar, also fed nori into a shredder and handed it out to the crowd to snack on while they waited for the salad to be complete.

Once all of the salad was on the floor, Knowles, 85, strapped on a pair of booties, stepped onto the plastic lining and mixed the ingredients up with a rake. She then took the mic and said, "We're serving up now. Thank you for your patience."

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From there, she and the chefs filled bowls and passed them out to the grateful crowd.

"It's my best piece yet," Knowles said with a grin.

The performance celebrated a changeover at the museum's ongoing "Ritual" group exhibition, which gathers works that invite viewers to reflect on experiences with routine and that explore ways that mundane daily practices might connect them to something bigger than themselves. Knowles, who with her Fluxus mates aimed to link the world of high art to the routines of daily life, is an ideal fit for this thoughtfully curated show that opened last winter and runs through November.

The third iteration of "Ritual," which opened Wednesday, includes Knowles' "Journal of the Identical Lunch," a record of her group performance art work from the early '70s, which called on participants to eat Knowles' standard midday meal — "a tuna fish sandwich on wheat toast with butter and lettuce, no mayo, and a cup of soup or glass of buttermilk." — for an extended period. The museum's SO Café is marking its exhibition here by serving the "identical lunch" for patrons.

The new works added to "Ritual" include a video work by Francis Alÿs; Sophie Calle's "Autobiographies (Morning)," collecting the words her father spoke on his deathbed; David Hammons' "Untitled (Bottles)," offering a West African spin on the meditative ship-in-a-bottle tradition; and Ana Mandieta's series of photographs "Burial Pyramid" looking at rituals of burying the dead.

Found objects, collected by New Zealand artist Kate Newby, also are included but are being exhibited in the pockets of museum staffers. They're viewable only upon request.

The "Make a Salad" performance is among a slew of unconventional events the museum has hosted to complement "Ritual" over its run, including guided meditations, a piano sound bath with composer Ravé Mehta on Tuesday and "aura photography" sessions inspired by Anne Collier's aura photographs in the second iteration of "Ritual" in March.

All week the museum has hosted Tibetan Buddhist monks from Drepung Loseling Monastery on their annual visit to Aspen as they construct a temporary mandala sand painting. The destruction of the sand mandala and closing ceremony is scheduled for Sunday afternoon.

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IF YOU GO …

What: ‘Ritual’

Where: Aspen Art Museum

When: Through Nov. 25

How much: Free

More info: This third and final iteration of the exhibition includes works by artists Francis Alÿs, Sophie Calle, David Hammons, Alison Knowles, Ana Mendieta and Kate Newby; aspenartmuseum.org

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What: Mandala Lecture

Who: Geshe Lobsang Tenzin

Where: Aspen Art Museum

When: Sunday, July 22, 1:30 p.m.

How much: Free

More info: aspenartmuseum.org

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What: Mandala Sand Painting Closing Ceremony

Where: Aspen Art Museum

When: Sunday, July 22, 3 p.m.

How much: Free

More info: aspenartmuseum.org