Pamplin Media Group – Hit show ‘The Art of Food’ whets the appetite
The exhibition of prints from the collections of Jordan D. Schnitzer and his family’s foundation is a masterful slice of tasteful items
Whichever way you cut it, food is an important subject in the visual arts. From Caravaggio’s peaches to Andy Warhol’s cows, artists have been painting what’s in front of them for centuries and making viewers salivate (or shiver). For curator Olivia Miller, once she got her hands on Jordan Schnitzer’s huge collection of fine art prints, her task was to click on the works that included foods that appealed to her and divide them into sections. to make sense of such a vast topic.
The resulting exhibit, The Art of Food, which runs at Portland State University’s Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art through December 3, is a fun and well-curated rush through the past hundred years showing what’s on the hungry artist’s mind. For Jasper Johns, it was beer cans. For Bruce Nauman, it was black coffee. For local hero Malia Jensen, butter, breasts and doughnuts.
And for Donald Sultan, it was lemons. Its four screen-printed lemons leap from the wall on the lower level of the museum. Three of them are jet black and have a thick, velvety texture thanks to the use of tar-like ink. Only one is yellow and one of the backgrounds is muted orange. They’re really just lemon silhouettes, ovals with a bump on each end, just shapes. Miller, who is the curator of exhibits at the University of Arizona Museum of Art, where the exhibit originated, told Pamplin Media Group that she chose them from a binder of impressions without visiting account of their size. “Even in reproductive form they had such a strong graphic impact, and I was mesmerized by how Donald Sultan could take these seemingly ordinary objects, magnify them, take away their detail and you still get the essence of a lemon. .” She says Sultan somehow magnified the lemons, but also reduced them and retained their lemony essence.
Next to them are lithographs of different fruits – pears, apples, quinces, etc. – by Ellsworth Kelly. They are based on simple line drawings, a bit like the exercise of drawing without removing the pencil from the paper. The lines are fluid, the forms sensual. The pear may have its knot at the base, but there are hardly any more details. With the stems left, the pointed leaves often form a halo around the round, fruit-bearing body.
They are part of a larger series, “Suite of vegetable lithographs”. “I was really drawn to them because they’re so naturalistic, and again, like Sultan, Ellsworth Kelly stripped them down to their most essential elements.” A single line is enough to know what it is.
“It’s also a testament to humans and their sensory abilities, the way we can also look at a single line and imagine the colors, you can imagine the scent, you can imagine the taste, and I find that’s so beautiful relationship between the artwork and the viewer.”
Chris Antemann lives in the Wallowas and makes bold porcelain figurines. Based on 18th-century German centrepieces, the kind found at state and aristocratic banquets, Antemann makes her figures sexually active. Instead of picking apples and dancing, his wives offer apples – and often their own behinds – to shirtless swains and lords in his porcelain scenarios.
“Covet” shows a budding threesome on a busy table, while “Fruit Pyramid” is a bowl filled with ceramic fruits, including apples and figs, with flirting couples on the stem and base.
Miller says Antemann’s mini-swingers, as well as Sultans Lemons, jumped on her and she built the show downstairs around them.
Antemann has partnered with the venerable Meissen porcelain factory in Germany to create these colorfully painted pieces, which are fired over high heat and may contain delicate details such as flowers, fingers and lips. With their high gloss and great irony, there’s a lot of 1990s Jeff Koons about them.
“She draws from this 18th century aesthetic and brings it from a very contemporary and very humorous point of view. These porcelains are breathtakingly beautiful.”
Reading about Antemann’s work is part of the fun. “It takes you on this journey where you can learn about the techniques of the Meissen porcelain factory, which makes you want to discover the decorative arts of the 1700s.” Antemann was inspired by the monumental Temple of Love by Johann Joachim Kändler (1750). “And the fact that decorative objects have a lot of meaning behind them, in addition to just being pretty things to look at. She really brings this conversation into the 21st century.”
sex and drugs
Another local heroine, Sherrie Wolf, has several delightful still lifes, including prints that trace the life of Artemisia Gentileschi. She was a successful Italian Baroque painter who was raped and endured a horrific public trial. Wolf draws attention here to its history as well as its sumptuous surfaces.
Other must-have pieces from the show include Damien Hirst’s silkscreen prints where he takes large graphics of pharmaceutical packaging and claims they contain standard British foods, such as steak and kidney pie, peas and , in the morphine box, “Chicken”. Miller again likes how the artist has enlarged the imagery from six inches to about six feet. Drugs, food, brand surveillance…it’s art you can hang on your wall and everyone can talk about.
Another prolific Catholic artist, Andy Warhol, was apparently told by his dealer, Ivan Karp, to “make cows” in 1966. The resulting brightly colored repetitive image of a cow photo taken from a book, soberly titled “Cow,” Miller says reminds her of factory farming, an interpretation she’s happy to apply when looking back to the 1960s. A “Bull Profile Series” by Robert Rauschenberg, where it repeatedly summarizes a bull in Picasso like cubism, has the same effect. We end up with a series of cuts of meat.
An excellent show, The Art of Food has a lot to tell us about how artists see what’s on their plate and how they serve it to us.
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