Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Pop Food

In the 1960s, commercial images of food inspired the Pop Art movement to depict food in a completely different way from the artists that preceded them. Claes Oldenbourg was among the early pop artists, and he often made gigantic sculptures of food (like the spoon bridge with a cherry in Minneapolis). He also made soft sculpture or moulded sculpture of meat, pastry, sandwiches, and other foods, like the case of Danish Pastry above. When I first saw Pop Art I felt as if it had showed me a whole new way to see the things around me. I still find these representations of ordinary foods to open my eyes in a special way. The context of Oldenbourg's representations is defined not by painting or sculpting the surroundings (as earlier artists usually did) but by using the same type of case in which real food in a diner or restaurant would be displayed to someone about to eat. Playful! Artful!

Andy Warhol started as a commercial artist, and combined the Pop Art vision with the commercial vision, as in the hamburgers below, which are re-drawn from ads. Of course his soup cans are much more famous, and even one remove from the food: you only see the label, not the soup itself.

Pop Art really differs from what came before, in my opinion. Artists like Jan Steen, Velazquez, Manet, Bonnard, and many others painted food in a social context: people were cooking, about to eat, or otherwise to engage in cooking or taking a meal. Van Gogh's potato eaters and Picasso's frugal diners put dining in the context of poverty, perhaps making a political point about the subjects. Still-life painters (whether classic, cubist, or romantic) made studies of the shapes and colors of foods, fruits, serving dishes, and related objects, at times also referring to symbolism associated with the objects in their pictures. Pop Art referred to another visual dimension of modern life.

1 comment:

Jeanie said...

This is fun -- never thought of things in this context. Fascinating!