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Food in Art


docsconz

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I came across this online exhibiton entitled Value Meal: Design and (over)Eating that used food and food based themes very provocatively in the name of art. Obviously, not everything in this exhibit leads to a sense of comfort or satiety.

What do you think of these works and what other demonstrations of food in contemporary art have you come across?

Thanks to coolhunting.com for leading me to this.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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This speaks closely to my heart, Doc...

As an artist myself, I am always intrigued with fellow artists who use food and food themes as inspiration. My latest obsession is the still-life and surreal works of Charles Becker (the website hardly does his work justice, those shown are several years old and his newer works are far more stunning -- the paintings are downright luminous!)

I have been involved in the curating of several exhibits and admit to feeling a bit jaded towards those artists who use a culinary theme and am always looking for new artists who go in that direction.

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Well....there's a lot. Depends upon your notions of food and contemporary art. I'd argue you're documenting quite a bit of it at the conference you're reporting at the moment in a different thread, Doc.

I'm not all that knowledgeable about the twenty-first century, but in the previous:

Perhaps one of the few performance artists whose name became familiar among the general public for a little while, there's Karen Finley who smeared herself not only with chocolate; she's done honey, too.

Someone considered profoundly influential when it comes to performance art, Joseph Beuys, should be mentioned. "How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare," a piece performed in the mid-sixties was one that contemplated the relationship between humans and animals including those we slaughter and eat and those we fear will do that to us. (The artist also included a free-range living wolf in another famous work.)

Then, of course, there's Claus Oldenburg and his soft sculptures of hamburgers, pie, etc. Everyone's favorite, an enormous ice cream bar, upturned, bite taken out of it so cars could drive through on the streets of Manhattan, was never built.

Pop art gave us lots. You know Andy Warhol from his soup cans to the influence of his documentaries on John Waters, including the infamous incident in which Divine ate something most of us would not.

Mel Ramos did pin-up images that conflate the commodification of the young, desirable bodies of naked women with that of food as seen with the heterosexual male gaze :wink:

Closely related are Jasper Johns with his ale cans and Rauschenberg with his sculptural realizations of Cubist collages that took absinthe, etc. as their subjects.

Then there's the British feminist artist, Mary Kelly and the "Post-Partum Document" of the 1970s which includes diapers documenting her son's experience of food.

If you get a chance, go over to MOMA or the Whitney and look around. There should be some of Wayne Thiebald's paintings in which he draws relationships between the lusciousness of the thick impasto of brushwork and the frosting on cakes. Also look for one of my favorites at the Whitney (? MOMA? I forget) of a dish of ice cream that really is a dish of ice cream, solidified back in the 60's--I think. You definitely will see Duchamp's sexualized chocolate grinder, Cornell's dancing plastic lobsters (unless they're on loan for a special exhibition) or the infamous fur-lined tea cup by Meret Oppenheim.

But why stop with the recent past?

Still-life paintings are obvious. Rembrandt's hanging racks of meat respond to sixteenth-century works of the same subject, but in a more violent, painterly fashion.

Go back further, food figures importantly in stained-glass windows at Chartres Cathedral where it is argued, the men behind the construction of the building used the themes of bread, wine and money to flaunt their power and impose their authority.

Further back? Roman mosaics, one famous composition possibly based on a lost Greek precedent, strew the floor illusionistically with gnawed bones and cherry pits. Athenians carved themselves bringing sacrificed animals to their civic goddess and sent images of her throughout the Greek world upon trophies filled with expensive olive oil. Earlier? Egyptians documenting their funerary practices and making miniaturized replicas of food and servants that they believed would spring to life, full-scale in tombs to feed the life-force of the deceased. And while skepticism is currently raised about whether or not the prehistoric people of Southern France or Spain ate much bison (bones found in caves suggest a diet primarily of bunnies and fish), there are the running bovines and equines on rough stone walls.

As for the so-called non-Western traditions beyond the ones cited above, there's a whole lot too. A favorite from the T'ang Dynasty is a painting on silk of a palace concert attended exclusively by women, all seeming to be well into their cups. A much different example would be the images of palm trees bearing heavy fruit in early Islamic holy sites, promising the splendor of the afterlife in terms appropriated from Ancient Rome.

I'm pretty sure there are several pre-existing threads on this topic.

Edited by Pontormo (log)

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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Off the top of my head I can think of two contemporary artists who have engaged food in a way that engaged me.

There's a fellow named Rirkrit Tiravanija who for more than a decade has been cooking meals for people as a form of low-key performance art/institutional criticism. Here's an example of his work:

http://calendar.walkerart.org/event.wac?id=2710

Wim Delvoye made a machine that eats, digests and excretes. More info here:

http://www.newmuseum.org/more_exh_cloaca.php

PS: Great work Pontormo.

Edited by ned (log)

You shouldn't eat grouse and woodcock, venison, a quail and dove pate, abalone and oysters, caviar, calf sweetbreads, kidneys, liver, and ducks all during the same week with several cases of wine. That's a health tip.

Jim Harrison from "Off to the Side"

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Thanks for the up-date, Ned.

I think someone here may have brought this to our attention in an earlier thread, too, but I had forgotten this fairly recent mosaic made with slices of toast instead of pebbles, squares of rock or glass. Imagine being a conservator in charge of maintaining the work for posterity!

ETA: Tibetan butter-painting is one example of perpetuated, age-old practices that include the use of food as a medium for constructing images. A decade or two ago, a museum in NYC invited monks over to demonstrate the ritual to the curious. However, I can't remember off-hand whether it was in The Museum of Natural History (i.e., classified as anthropology) or an an art museum. In this case, it is the process of making the image that matters and not the end result. Sort of like Pollock, though his canvases go for a lot of money and are carefully restored when necessary; butter-paintings are destroyed upon completion.

Edited by Pontormo (log)

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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Someone considered profoundly influential when it comes to performance art, Joseph Beuys, should be mentioned.  "How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare," a piece performed in the mid-sixties was one that contemplated the relationship between humans and animals including those we slaughter and eat and those we fear will do that to us. (The artist also included a free-range living wolf in another famous work.)

And don't forget his sculpture "Fat Corner", which, from what I understand, consisted of a pile of fat. In a corner. (If he'd lived longer, I think that Beuys would have loved "Snakes on a Plane.") And according to Wikipedia, he once threw a blood sausage over the Berlin Wall, "to unify the nation symbolically".

Further back?  Roman mosaics, some based on Greek precedents, strew the floor illusionistically with fish bones and peach pits.  Athenians carved themselves bringing sacrificed animals to their civic goddess and sent images of her throughout the Greek world upon vases filled with expensive olive oil.

A year ago, in this thread, Alberto Chinali (albiston) posted this photo of votive fruits and vegetables, from the Italian Greek colony of Paestum:

gallery_9330_174_10327.jpg

To which we could add my lousy photo of this lovely little votive pomegranate, which is at the national museum in Reggio Calabria:

gallery_7432_1362_55521.jpg

(Does that count as "art" or as "religious object"? Well, that's easy: it's in a museum, therefore it's art. Right, Pontormo?)

And from the same museum, this very cool hare vase:

gallery_7432_1362_35858.jpg

What I like about this is that, while the Greeks made tons and tons of drinking vessels in the shapes of animals-- you can see the two boar vases in this photo-- this is rare in that it's in the shape of a dead hare, that is, one that's specifically destined to be eaten.

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To which we could add my lousy photo of this lovely little votive pomegranate, which is at the national museum in Reggio Calabria:

gallery_7432_1362_55521.jpg

(Does that count as "art" or as "religious object"?  Well, that's easy: it's in a museum, therefore it's art.  Right, Pontormo?)

And here I was peeping at the thread again, seeing your name and hastening to correct my identification of the fruit on the mosaic floor!

Cool photo, Andrew! As for what we call art, you got me there. Marcel Duchamp is famous for questioning our notion of art by displaying ready-mades such as a mass-produced bottle rack (to keep examples food & drink related) and by virtue of recognizing its powerful lines and the beauty of repeated form, asking us to call it art and him its artist. In college, I took a Studio class on Idea Art (graded) in which the professor told us that art was anything we wanted to call art, but that he reserved the right to distinguish between good and bad art.

As you know full well, art museums are devoted to preserving and displaying cultural artifacts, objects and images in a context that is utterly foreign to the original context in which the majority were produced. As a result, they lose both their original function and significance, e.g. honoring the gods, proclaiming power or flattering the elite. The term "museumification" was coined by a major scholar of Mao to explain how presenting an object for academic scrutiny was a way to divest it of its relevance and thus, its power to influence our lives.

Again, moving outside the "Western" tradition, we should recognize cultures that make no distinction between Fine Arts and Minor Arts when it comes to their notions of artistry, skill and beauty. E.g., raku ware made in a refined, paradoxically "warped & cracked is beautiful" aesthetic, meant to be pondered while sipping its contents.

However, while John started this thread for the sake of intellectual nourishment, the examples that inspired the topic all were produced by folk who would probably like to see some of their stuff displayed as art in museums.

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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As for what we call art, you got me there.  Marcel Duchamp is famous for questioning our notion of art by displaying ready-mades such as a mass-produced bottle rack (to keep examples food & drink related) and by virtue of recognizing its powerful lines and the beauty of repeated form, asking us to call it art and him its artist. 

Didn't Duchamp also display something less... savory? And is a mass-produced votive item (like the pomegranate) art or not? That's the sort of question that keeps art historians busy and off the streets; unfortunately, it's above my pay grade.

Anyway, because you mentioned Roman messy floor mosaics, I can't resist posting this:

gallery_7432_1362_105460.jpg

That's a section of the most famous messy floor, in the Museo Gregorio Profano at the Vatican. It's pretty cool, too-- sea urchins, lobsters, crabs, figs and even that little mouse heading for a nut. And it's definitely art: I mean, not only is it in a museum, but it has been signed. As Duchamp showed.

Anyway, as I don't know nothin' 'bout modern art, I'd probably better bow out now...

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  • 3 months later...

I'd like to add this painting to the thread. Nothing startling in terms of what it is as a painting, but for one thing that struck me as slightly odd.

Painted by the American James Peale in the 1820's, it prominently features a "balsam apple".

Which, if you google it, you find listed as being called balsam pear or bitter melon.

The timing on the painting is interesting, for even now bitter melon is not well known in the US. Nor is balsam apple, really. :raz:

A curious, tendril-bearing annual vine native to the tropical regions of Africa, Asia, and Australia. The Balsam Apple was introduced into Europe by 1568 and was used medicinally to treat wounds. In 1810 Thomas Jefferson planted this vine in his flower borders at Monticello along with Larkspur, Poppies, and Nutmeg Plant.
(From this site.)

What's more interesting is that the wild varieties that are pictured as thriving here look like this not like this.

So. . .was he painting a bitter melon? Or a balsam apple? Are they the same thing? And where on earth did he obtain (whatever it is that it really is) in 1820 in the US?

:biggrin:

Not modern art, but yet slightly conceptual and mildly shocking.

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Great thread! #1 Boy was in an art show last year wherein various artists were given plates and asked to make a work of their own choosing on said plate. His was titled "Eat Your Heart(OUT)" and it consisted of some 'chocolate' hearts and a heart shaped mold he had used to manufacture said hearts. This show is the major work of another artist, he's traveling the world giving out plates to various luminaries of the art world and curating the results. I'm sorry, I can barely remember my own name, never mind the names of shows and artists. I'm addlepated lately, but here is a consolation gift: The Food Museum online!

Edited by Rebecca263 (log)

More Than Salt

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His was titled "Eat Your Heart(OUT)" and it consisted of some 'chocolate' hearts and a heart shaped mold he had used to manufacture said hearts. This show is the major work of another artist, he's traveling the world giving out plates to various luminaries of the art world and curating the results.

I love the Food Museum site - it always has something fun going on! And the plate project sounds absolutely fascinating, Rebecca. If the name of the exhibit happens to come along, please do post it for us. . .what one might wish to put on a plate and eat might be astonishing. It is wonderful that your particular friend chose to make and eat love. :wink:

Good thoughts, as always,

Karen

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Update: OK, it's our most interesting Sr.Antoni Miralda who has concieved the work that #1Boy participated in last year. Quite fascinating ideas, really. The show is called "Sabor y Lenguas":13 Ciudades, Tastes & Tongues:13 Cities. I'm offering this link to the Food and Culture Museum's site, because they have Sr.Miralda's main idea and original 13 plates up, with some really wonderful pages of informtaion culled and distilled by el Sr. Miralda. What I liked was the ideas behind this work, the food culture of each city was dissected in a fun way. For instance, to me, a big part of Miami food culture is the green coconut vendors who sell fresh green coconuts: they hack off the tops, insert straws and give you a taste of heaven, on the sides of back roads. But this was missed, somehow, and what Sr.Miralda discovered, instead, is a more commercial Miami. Which I found thought provoking, and rich, in itself!CLICK! on each plate for food for thought!

edited by me, broken link!

Edited by Rebecca263 (log)

More Than Salt

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Cure Cutaneous Lymphoma

Join the DarkSide---------------------------> DarkSide Member #006-03-09-06

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  • 3 weeks later...

There's a book I've been meaning to look at for a while, and today was finally the day.

Eating Architecture

Chock-full of "food in art" in both visual and conceptual ways. It reads a bit too much like Artforum for me to concentrate well on it (though there are lots of pictures, that helps :biggrin: ) but for those with a taste for this, it is a banquet. An amazing book, fantastic resource. Much more to chew on than simply the architectural/food link. It's not just about "buildings and food".

"This provocative anthology from an exceptionally diverse set of architects, philosophers, artists, and theoreticians provides something for everyone on the connections between food, eating, the body, and architecture. Studies range from farmers' markets and urban agriculture in Cuba to the role of food in an eighteenth-century French narrative of seduction to etymological meditations on sarcophagi, Mies van der Rohe's design for a drive-in restaurant, and Salvador Dalí's gastro-aesthetics."

-

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  • 16 years later...

I recently stumbled down quite a rabbit-hole of sardine-can art that I thought I would share. I don't know if it some Jungian thing or what, but it crops up in actual can labels and in art inspired by sardine cans. Maybe it is some fascination with the way the key curls the lid back. Something strangely satisfying about that.

 

I didn't always save links to sources and some might be considered NSFW, depending on your work. Mermaids, you know. I'll start with this overview.

 

image.thumb.png.ba47d4feb87bea5e9ba0bb88fddac4e7.png

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It's almost never bad to feed someone.

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I didn't recognise Gilbert Shelton's name but he was actually my entry into this obscure corner of the internet and many of you probably know his underground comics "The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers" and "Fat Freddy's Cat" I guess he likes sardines, too.

 

image.thumb.png.22895ac8f5c085ce6eb5154cae3d15a8.png

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It's almost never bad to feed someone.

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Beatrix Potter (1866-1943), the  British writer and illustrator of children's books such as The Tale of Peter Rabbit was also a keen and respected mycologist. She made detailed illustrations of many of the mushrooms she studied. Here are but a few.

 

Amanitaexcels.jpg.2bfc94815fa1dc4d4c31520bd9490205.jpg

 

Clitocybeampla.jpg.e870d737d8c571fb22adbee5ec347ff8.jpg

 

Flammulinavelutipes-enoki.jpg.ff149cd09ec0f3be1a87e340271e5158.jpg

 

Himeolaauricula.jpg.9bb80e9453e4f7c3558a5ef4e703dfb6.jpg

 

Hydrocybecoccinea.jpg.6d4ceb11e10ecef01ca926673d62c5fd.jpg

 

Hygrophoruspuniceus.jpg.d19fbc18954593c64c255aa0767a030d.jpg

 

Lepiotafriesii.jpg.e4a7fc17f9c53cfc27831215a5b42098.jpg

 

Lepitoaprocera.jpg.58ee126b1820741a5909c01606ed1f46.jpg

 

Strobilomycesstrobilaceus.jpg.f566e6ab854f547ef9da7629757258ef.jpg

 

All images Public Domain

 

Edited by liuzhou
typo (log)
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...your dancing child with his Chinese suit.

 

A terrible thing is ignorance, the source of endless human woes, spreading a mist over facts, obscuring truth, and casting a gloom upon the individual life. - Lucian of Samosata (born 120, died after 180 CE)

 

The Kitchen Scale Manifesto

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5 hours ago, liuzhou said:

Beatrix Potter (1866-1943), the  British writer and illustrator of children's books such as The Tale of Peter Rabbit was also a keen and respected mycologist. She made detailed illustrations of many of the mushrooms she studied. Here are but a few.

 

Amanitaexcels.jpg.2bfc94815fa1dc4d4c31520bd9490205.jpg

 

Clitocybeampla.jpg.e870d737d8c571fb22adbee5ec347ff8.jpg

 

Flammulinavelutipes-enoki.jpg.ff149cd09ec0f3be1a87e340271e5158.jpg

 

Himeolaauricula.jpg.9bb80e9453e4f7c3558a5ef4e703dfb6.jpg

 

Hydrocybecoccinea.jpg.6d4ceb11e10ecef01ca926673d62c5fd.jpg

 

Hygrophoruspuniceus.jpg.d19fbc18954593c64c255aa0767a030d.jpg

 

Lepiotafriesii.jpg.e4a7fc17f9c53cfc27831215a5b42098.jpg

 

Lepitoaprocera.jpg.58ee126b1820741a5909c01606ed1f46.jpg

 

Strobilomycesstrobilaceus.jpg.f566e6ab854f547ef9da7629757258ef.jpg

 

All images Public Domain

 

 What a gifted artist. 

(Today is my mushroom day, apparently. Had three -- this is the 4th -- encounters one way or the other with mushrooms today. What a blessing to me. I consider mushrooms to be one of the most mysterious beings on earth.)

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