Wednesday, August 5, 2009


Artist Ed Ruscha dispenses with traditional images and gives us "Raw." (1971) But hey, that's a wrap!

Southeast Asians wrap rice cakes as gifts for neighbors and friends on holidays. Banana leaves are traditional but bamboo or lotus leaves are often used in the U.S. by Asian-Americans. In Lao, they are called Kau-tum. Tying the package correctly is considered an artistic act and each region or culture group may have its own style. Hmong people process sugar cane into syrup for rice cakes and others stuff the rice cake with sweetened pork.

Robert Zandvliet (born Netherlands, 1970) Untitled (Burger Styrofoam take-out box or "clam shell"), 1996

Felix Gonzalez-Torres (born Cuba, 1957-1996) Untitled (Public Opinion), 1991. The installation consists of 700 pounds of Black Rod Licorice, 1991

In this installation and many other interactive sets, the artist used individually wrapped hard candy. Exhibit visitors were encouraged to help themselves and perhaps leave behind other candy tokens on the pile. One such installation serves as a memorial to his deceased partner.

In 1995 the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, organized a retrospective of his work. He died at age 38.

Salami, no rye!

Christian Berentz (born Hamburg, Germany, 1658-1722) Lo Spuntino Elegante
Christie's Auction House, Rome. Price 1987: 25,000,000 ITL (Lira)

is the Italian word for a little snack: sliced meats and cheeses, fresh breads, wine, olive oil, olives and so forth. Dean & Deluca in upscale America.

Butter, a fresh one-pound brick, is the offering that Julie lays before the iconic portrait of Julia Childs in the recently released 2009 film directed by Nora Ephron. And it's not the only appearance of this dairy wonder and basic ingredient (in Childs' view) of French cuisine. We see chefs slathering poultry, prepping the pan for french toast, and on and on - enough butter to make even Antoine Vollon (1833-1900) gag. And who's he?

Antoine Vollon, Mound of Butter

I first came across this painting (dated 1875-8885) at the National Gallery of Art last summer. I knew the image well from my researches on Food Images in the Arts and here it was, 19 3/4 x 24 inches, rather a modest size, but with a surface as rich as I expected.

But there is more to this business of food and feelings.

Raw Feelings!

Francis Bacon feels pity through meat because all of human kind is manifested in flesh or meat, if you will. Meat, hung (or crucified) or flailed, is a common zone that Man shares with beasts.

Bacon's concern is the vulnerability of the human body - perhaps attributed to his own nasty Irish childhood, his confrontations with homophobia, martial violence, and a world brimming with greed and cynicism.
This inexorably leads to crucifixion themes and, simply, a hanging side of beef.
Francis Bacon (born Dublin, 1909-1992) Figure with Meat (Or, Head Surrounded
by Sides of Beef), 1954 (combining or appropriating elements of Rembrandt's Carcass of Beef, 1657, and Diego Velasquez's portrait of Pope Innocent X in 1653)

Pinar Yolacan (born Ankara, Turkey, 1981)) Perishables (female clothing fashioned from raw meat, chicken skin, tripe and offal, photographed, discarded). Fascinated by the ephemeral. In folk art, snowmen and Halloween pumpkins. In fine art, the once-only "happening." Among the avant-garde, Colonized Afro-Brazilian women clothed in cows' placentas (below).

Essentially, this is performance art and the women present themselves in the Victorian tradition of draped forms, a recognized performance of those times. Yolacan sees her work as providing a significant transition and a blurring of the lines between human skin and the Other.

Janet Fish (1938 American) Bag of Bananas,1976 and Tomatoes, 1974
Cellophane and later, plastic separates us from the natural texture and aroma of food. Few food-related processes signify the modern American culture as much as this. See Robert Watts, below

Roxy Paine (born New York, 1966) Headcheese, 2004 (Pigmented epoxy resin sculpture).

Paine is primarily a sculptor and his forms draw largely upon nature, most importantly trees. Headcheese is not cheese but a dish made from the meat scraps taken from the head or other edible parts of a calf or pig, cooked, and jellied. Like revenge, it is best served cold and sliced, perhaps in a terrine.

Headcheese (also called brawn or souse) is in a food category with pate and extends the blurred lines between natural and unnatural media
as with Paine's trees and other sculptures.

Hughie O'Donoghue (born County Mayo, Ireland, 1953) Meat II, 1986
His paintings, often figurative and landscapes, mix the mythic, the real and the suggestive. This abstract-impressionistic image of Meat II grows out of his concern with Ireland's food history and is a departure from his usual approach.

Raphael Peale (born Annapolis, MD, 1774-1825 ) Apples and I (Still life)
The Peale family presented us with several generations of superb artists, mainly in the still life genre.

The include his illustrious father, Charles Willson Peale and similarly named siblings: Rembrandt, Rubens, Titian and sisters Margaretta (below), Ann, and Sarah Miriam. They were all celebrated in the 1997 exhibit "American Legacy, 1770-1870" at the San Francisco Museum of Art.

Claes Oldenburg Two Hamburgers with Everything, 1962 (sculpture)

Francisco Goya (1746, Zaragoza, Spain-1828), Still Life with Salmon Steaks, 1808-12

James Rosenquist (born Grand Forks, ND, 1933) White Bread, 1964

Robert M. Watts (1923-1988) Bread Slice, ca 1970s (plastic). Watts was a major figure in the 1960-70s with his version of Pop Art, Fluxus, and other genres, including the extension of early Dadaist postage stamp fine art into the twentieth century Mail Art phenomenon. His Chocolate Cream Pie, 1964 (cast aluminum) is owned by the Rutgers University Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum, New Brunswick, NJ, one of many food images in his repertoire.

Watts, Bread Slice, ca 1970s
Watts, Bread (Ten Loaves), ca 1970s.
Bread loaves of plaster representing the sequence from raw to packaged, the final one in foil - insulated, shiny, untouchable.

1 comment:

monaluna said...

i'm all about the licorice mound. i'll pass on the cow's placentas, thanks.