The exhibition brings together paintings, drawings, and sculpture. It has been assembled to encourage and rethink the traditional definition of still life. It includes human-made or natural objects such as Pour’s interpretation of a Persian carpet or Chagall’s brilliant-cut flowers. Picasso’s jewel-like cherries were painted as metaphors of material pleasures such as wine and food to be celebrated. Andy Warhol used a Campbell’s Soup Box to express, the idea that a popular grocery item reinterpreted through a slight variation could become more intriguing. Each work on view represents the freedom each artist employed to decode the composition of elements in their work.
Painted on 14-15 June 1943, Picasso's Compotier et verres is a great still life that dates from the years of Paris' Occupation during the Second World War. Within this work are a conflicting range of emotions: on the one hand, the fruit dish and glasses depicted in rigid, almost architectural forms that comprise the scene lend this painting an atmosphere of tension yet, in the very center of it all are the jewel-like cherries, tiny celebrations, relief in the midst of adversity. The flashes of red ensure that the painting is read not only as of the product of anxiety but also of hope, which burns, like embers, in the middle of this drama. This picture, then, shows a battle between the forces of oppression and the steady glimmer of hope and is an image of relief in stark contrast to the still life paintings of skulls dating from the same period.
Describing her first encounter with Picasso, Françoise Gilot, who within a year would become his lover, recalled a meal in the restaurant Le Catalan, in the rue des Grands-Augustins, the same street on which the artist had his studio (fig. 1). Françoise was eating with an actress and a school friend and noticed that Picasso had been glancing in her direction during the meal: "Finally, he got up and came over to our table. He brought with him a bowl of cherries and offered some to all of us, in his strong Spanish accent, calling them cerisses, with a soft, doubles sound" (F. Gilot and C. Lake, Life with Picasso, New York, 1964, p. 14).
The result of this meeting was an invitation to Picasso's studio for the young students. However, it also serves as a new indication of the role of cherries in Picasso's life. These were a fruit that provided relief, a form of luxury against the backdrop of the privations of the Second World War. Picasso painted a small group of still life's featuring cherries, indicating the importance that this small element of gastronomic delight, this light disruption to the monotony of wartime supplies, had to the artist. It is also indicative of the quality of these paintings, which are filled with the artist's enthusiasm for the theme that so many of these pictures are now in prominent museums.
“I used to drink [Campbells Soup] I used to to have the same lunch every day, for twenty years, the same thing over and over again. Someone said my life dominated me; I like that idea.”-Andy Warhol
By the 1960s, The New York art scene was saturated with the Abstract Expressionist works of the 1940s and 50s. It was around this time that gallery owner/interior designer Murial Latow suggested to Andy Warhol that he should paint objects that people use every day.
A play on American ingenuity and product (art) consumerism, Andy Warhol dug his fingers deep into the commercial side of the art industry by taking everyday objects, almost indistinguishable from the actual product, and replicating them through the printing process (even though the first series of soup cans were hand-painted). With his background in graphic design, Warhol was able to home in on the essential characteristics of these images from daily life and mass produce their likenesses, sometimes precisely, other times with his gestural elements overlaying the screened images.
In 1962, when Andy Warhol created his first Campbell’s Soup Can paintings, Campbell’s corporate management reacted with anger and litigation. They argued copyright infringement and sought damages from the young Pop Artist who was “capitalizing” on their name and reputation. In 1985, nearly a quarter-century later, when the Campbell’s Soup Company decided to enter the highly competitive soup-in-a-box market, management approached Warhol, asking him to commemorate their new line of Campbell’s Soup Box. This proved undoubtedly to be a twist, and ultimately a perfect example of the consumerism Warhol had investigated over and over again since the 60s, much like Picasso obsessed on particular themes throughout his artistic career. Since the 60s, Warhol had ventured into new territories, multiplied more images, and watched as audiences clamored to consume his art products. Of equal importance to his impersonal style of screening images, his multiplication of the image in endless variations played like Picasso’s countless variations of Jacqueline or ‘the nude.’ This serial form of creating and recreating an exact representation, again and again, was introduced by Warhol. It resulted in paradoxically in heightening the painting’s individuality - in repetition, the identity of the individual work became absorbed by the group as a whole. Yet, the outcome of this process was an intensified scrutiny of each singular work by the viewer.
The unexpected result was that by uniting the previously separate worlds of fine art and commerce, Warhol succeeded in revealing to us that art is a staple of our American aesthetic intellect, just as soup is a staple of the American diet.
“In their iconography of the banal, these artists used food products as a set of signs referring to reality at its most elementary, banal and vulgar – in other words, at its most popular. Moreover, their choices nearly always fell on local stereotypes: hot dogs, ice creams, hamburgers. Celebrated by literature and above all by movies, shared – in theory at least – by all alike, this food remains the most visible sign, with illusion thrown in as a bonus, of the great American Dream. The alimentary epitome of equal opportunities (the right to the same chow) and great thickener of the American melting pot (-luck dinner). One would indeed be hard pushed to find code more accessible to the uninitiated, a better common denominator between a second-generation Slovak immigrant (Warhol) and a more recent immigrant from Sweden (Oldenburg). As Andy said, “I feel I represent the U.S. in my art.” (Goldberg, Itzhak: Andy Warhol- Campbell’s Soup Box Paintings. Paris (2000))
“I was thinking about the carpet and its role in the world as an object of craft—people weaving in a community, the history, the patterns, the figures, and even its place as a commodity being traded,” - Kour Pour
Kour Pour (born 1987 in Exeter, England) is a Los Angeles based British-Persian artist, who creates enormous, intricate paintings of Persian carpets depicting images such as Silk Road merchants, Chinese dragons, and Victorian wallpaper patterns. Earning a BFA from Otis College of Art and Design in 2010, Pour made the first of his paintings of traditional carpets for his college graduation show. In just four short years, his first New York solo exhibition at the Untitled Gallery sold out a suite of seven intricately detailed eight-foot-tall canvases before the show even opened.
When discussing the motivation behind his carpet paintings, Pour says, "Carpets were a part of my childhood growing up in England. I remember my father's rug shop, and how he would hand-dye sections of carpets that had faded away, to bring back those vibrant colors."
Each work takes months to prepare - the canvas is first mounted on a panel and primed with several layers of gesso. To successfully mimic the woven texture, Pour uses a broomstick to etch the rug warp and fiber into the gesso. The rug's basic image is then silkscreened on to the prepared surface, and the artist meticulously paints the figures and patterns using acrylics. Following these months of preparatory work, Pour uses a circular sander to erase parts of the image to create its fictional history. Finally, he repaints these obliterated areas to complete the work.
Pour has recently been creating all the paintings' imagery himself using clip art and Google search elements, which are then stored on CD-ROMs. Through Photoshop, iconic themes and motifs from different times and locations are juxtaposed to create intricate but delicate original designs that flatten time, space, and place. "I could make them very narrative and tell a specific story, but it's not what I'm interested in," says Pour. "I'll type in 'Japanese mythology' or 'ancient Buddhist temples' and time-travel from place to place and put it into this format where past, present, and future are all rolled into one. They're records of the way we collect information, and it's also about taking these images out of their original context." However, he will not search for anything made after the Victorian era, stating that "the images are old, ancient even. But the way they're all gathered from different places speaks to our world today."
Flowers were an integral part of Chagall's life-affirming vision of the world, in which these colorful splendors of nature seem more abundant, more brilliant, and even more vital than in real life. Such paintings happily soar far beyond the confines laid down in the literal translation of the traditional French genre of the nature morte. Each Chagall painting of this kind projects the newness, the effervescent freshness, and the pure excitement of spontaneous discovery.
"Marc Chagall loved flowers," wrote André Verdet. "He delighted in their aroma, in contemplating their colors... Usually, they created a sense of joy, but they also reflect the melancholy of memories, the sadness of separations, of solitude, if not suffering, and tragedy... I remember a visit to La Colline [Chagall's home in Vence] some time ago. He had taken a painting from his studio and placed it against a tree trunk next to plants and flowers. He said, 'If my painting holds up in nature, if it doesn't disturb the harmony, then it is real, and perhaps one day I could put my name to it'" (quoted in J. Baal-Teshuva, ed., Chagall: A Retrospective, New York, 1995, p. 347).
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