Andy Warhol, Ed Ruscha, Jasper Johns served up in OKC’s ‘Art of Food’
Featuring works by Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns, Damien Hirst, Jenny Holzer and Oklahoma’s own Ed Ruscha, the latest exhibition at Oklahoma Contemporary Arts Center offers a visual feast created by some of the biggest names in contemporary art.
A veritable cornucopia of prints, photographs, sculptures and more, “The Art of Food: From the Collections of Jordan D. Schnitzer and His Family Foundation” is on view through May 22 at the Automobile Alley landmark, where admission is free. The exhibit dishes up an array of themes related to what we eat, from cultural traditions and land use to climate change and animal welfare.
“(It’s) a show about one of the most commonly depicted objects in our history, but taking different angles,” said Oklahoma Contemporary Director Jeremiah Matthew Davis.
In time for spring break, the nonprofit arts center will celebrate “The Art of Food” with a full menu of familyfriendly activities from 1 to 4 p.m. March 11 for its monthly Second Saturday XL. Boasting the theme “Eat Your Art Out” in honor of the exhibit, the festivities will include story times, a canned food drive, popsicles from WonderVan Pops, and art-making activities.
“I’m excited because it’s such an accessible show. We get so many people here who aren’t art gallery familiar, and this is something that all people can relate to,” said Lori Brooks, Oklahoma Contemporary’s communications director.
Here are eight tasty artistic treats to keep your eyes peeled for in the exhibit “The Art of Food”:
1. Hometown hero uses chocolate syrup, baked beans and more to make a statement
An iconic Los Angeles artist who grew up in Oklahoma City, Ed Ruscha was in an especially organic experimental phase when he created the 1970 series of screenprints “News, Mews, Pews, Brews, Stews & Dues,” each depicting a single word boldly depicted in Gothic typeface.
“(It’s) a signature style of Ed’s, taking words and then transferring them to paintings or prints. He’s riffing on some of the British-isms ... with these different phrases that we may associate with the culture of the UK,” Davis said. “But this came in a period when Ed had forsworn the use of paint. He said he’s never going to paint with oil again: ‘Paint’s dead, I’m going to only use nontraditional pigments.’”
The works are printed with organic materials like black currant pie filling, crushed baked beans, Bolognese sauce, mango chutney and Hershey’s chocolate flavor syrup.
“These are fading. The original prints were much more vibrant when they were originally pulled. But it turns out things like carrot and lettuce juice may not be the most stable for archival purposes. But I still think it commands our attention as immediately recognizable as an Ed Ruscha work,” Davis said.
2. Warhol leaves a familiar mark with cow print
With its repeated portraits of a behorned bovine, Warhol’s 1966 hot pink and yellow screenprint piece “Cow” is easy to spot — and identify as one of his works — from across the second-floor gallery.
“This was actually a joke, and Warhol was definitely fond of cracking jokes through his art and through some of his other shenanigans. ... In this particular case, Ivan Karp, his art dealer at the time, said, ‘Would you just paint some cows? I’m trying to sell this stuff,’” Davis said. “This was before he was internationally renowned as an icon of the Pop Art movement. So, he took that to heart, he looked through an old animal husbandry book, he found a cow named Barclay’s Betty, and he recreated the image on wallpaper, then transmitted that wallpaper onto the canvas. And indeed, apparently, it was a hit, and it was sold.”
Other Warhol works included in the exhibit are “Banana,” the neon image than became the famed cover art for the 1967 album “The Velvet Underground & Nico,” and a pair of his early-career 1947 watercolors that depict sad yet colorful bar scenes.
3. Soup can homage takes sharp aim at capitalistic art market
Mexican-born artist Enrique Chagoya’s 2002 installation “The Enlightened Savage” pays homage to Warhol’s legendary Campbell’s soup can prints while presenting a savagely sharp commentary on the capitalistic nature of the art market. Chagoya’s pyramid of “Cannibull’s” soup includes flavors like “Model’s Meat,” “Artist’s Brains with Rice” and “Critic’s Tongue.”
4. Spicy porcelain recreations sneak lusty imagery into china lookalikes
At first glance, it seems that Chris Antemann is painstakingly recreating the Meissen china figurines of the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries that remain highly sought-after by decorative art collectors.
But a closer look reveals some spicy themes served up among the forbidden fruits and tempting tarts in the finely crafted, hand-painted porcelain scenes titled “Covet” and “Fruit Pyramid.”
5. ‘ Things Go Better with Coke’ in legendary artists’ works
“The Art of Food” also features artworks that allude to drinks, from beer and cocktails to coffee and tea.
Two world-renowned contemporary artists included in the exhibit — Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg — use the instantly recognizable logo for Coca-Cola in their prints, proving the lasting potency of brand imagery.
6. Famed Brit writes a prescription for ‘food as medicine’
One of the richest and most famous contemporary artists alive today, Brit Damien Hirst is represented in the exhibit with a series of large minimalist screenprints that resemble old-fashioned prescription labels but swap drug names for food words like sausages, chicken and salad.
“The signature graphic style really commands our attention. A recent visitor to the gallery remarked — which I love his interpretation — ‘food is medicine.’ So, a less dire interpretation than the one that the curators pointed out, but I think one that deserves equal attention,” Davis said.
7. Argentinian artist makes plastic out of paper
Argentinian artist Analia Saban recreates in meticulous detail the ubiquitous plastic grocery bag in “Thank You for Your Business Plastic Bag,” a sculptural print on handmade paper.
“Nothing says the United States of America like a plastic bag with our flag printed on it,” Davis said.