Raid the Icebox Now with Beth Katleman: Games of Chance, 2019
What if a period room exposed a collector’s transgressions instead of burnishing their reputation? In Pendleton House, the RISD Museum’s decorative arts wing, Beth Katleman has created a lavish porcelain room devoted to 19th century antiquarian Charles Pendleton, whose scandals include compulsive gambling and an unnamed “indiscretion with a female” serious enough to cause his expulsion from Yale. The Games of Chance room evokes both high rococo art and low 1950’s kitsch, and contains nearly 10,000 elements cast in porcelain from Katleman's collection of tchotchkes and figurines. Reflecting Pendleton’s dual nature, Games of Chance freely blends fact and fiction and highlights the contrast between public and private personas.
Above the entrance door, the blindfolded figure resembling a young Marilyn Monroe is the goddess Fortuna, who serves as the muse for the room. She presides over paradise on the east wall and a shipwreck on the west. The bearded gentleman with the cane is Pendleton himself, though some have noted an uncanny likeness to KFC founder Colonel Harlon Sanders. The dice, playing-card, and roulette-wheel motifs throughout recall the lavish game room in Pendleton’s Manhattan mansion, where he often held exclusive gatherings for the purpose of card play. The paradise mirror shows young nymphs engaging in various amusements, with Pendleton at the bottom representing Bacchus.
In the short film below, the “foremost citizen experts on Mr. Charles L. Pendleton” give a tour of the room, embellishing on Pendleton’s checkered past along the way.
Raid the Icebox Now with Beth Katleman: Games of Chance, 2019 Porcelain, wire, mirror 132 x 204 x 92 inches
Photos by Erik Gould