Monday, December 28, 2009

Containers-at- Large: Huge, But Still Art


Ever since the early Pop Art era, artists have over and over picked up on the nuances of food packaging and containers as a source of inspiration and energy.

The definition of "packaging" might extend from the ice cream cone to the styrofoam burger take-out cartons to bags and boxes of all sorts to baskets and beyond. One organizing question,then is how big can this container be and still be recognized as part of the food environment?

One point seems to be obvious: Containers don't lend themselves easily to abstraction. Realism is the pattern.

All Refrigerators Need To Be Realistic:

Clive Barker , Fridge, n.d.

Clive Barker (b. Luton, Bedfordshire, England, 1940), Fridge Barker was active in the pop art movement along with colleagues like Peter Blake and Damien Hirst. Barker creates replicas of everyday objects, especially food-related sculpture, like a still life of chrome apples, a Mars bar or Coca Cola bottles.

Roy Lichtenstein, The Refrigerator, 1962

Here the emphasis is on the reality of maintaining this container. Stereotypically, it's the wife's job and she seems to just love it! Sure! A fifties frame of mind.

Peter Saul, Ice Box #9, 1963
Okay, all refrigerators need not be realistic but this image is an exception.

How Large [and Real] Can a Food Container be...and Still Be Art?

R.P. Welty (1962, Tokyo,Japan) The Contents of My Pantry, 2004 (photo).
Sorbonne, 1983. Conceptual artist drawn to containers as art.

Above: Rachel Perry Welty, Loaves (208,896 bread wrappers). Partial view of Installation (60 x 60 x 32 inches)

The Dufala Brothers, Ice Cream Truck
/ Tank (9' x 8' x 14')

Bil and Steven Dufala are brothers and recognized,prize-wining artists.Graduates of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (sculpture and print making, respectively. In 2008, they won the prestigious West Prize with this entry, seen as challenging and inventive. Stretching the art world, so to speak. Apparently it combines the best aspects of a military vehicle and the traditional ice cream truck that circles the neighborhood and rings its chimes. No right-thinking Good Humor man would drive this vehicle.

Other inventive constructions include "14 Toilet Tricycles, 12 City Blocks, and 5 1/2 minutes." Duchamp would be pleased.

Marshall Solokoff, Salt; Sugar, both 2004,
Solokoff's abstract digital photos of container ships, bringing salt and sugar to North American ports such as Jarvis Bay, Vancouver, BC. His images of the ultimate food container are enriched by cracks, rust, weathering and other discoloration, all of which work to his aesthetic advantage.
Solokoff is a Canadian photographer, living in Vancouver,BC and is available at

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