Food for thought
BY MEIR RONNEN
Jerusalem Post - Israel; Jan 24, 2003
An extensive Youth Wing show at the Israel Museum, Food and Art: A Matter of taste, is a reminder of the perrenial popularity of paintings of and about food and drink.
For the last five centuries or so painting has concentrated on just a few subjects: religious and mythological depictions, portraits of the aristocracy, sexy women and girls, military, naval and genre scenes, impressive landscapes - and food.
All in all, I suspect that paintings of food or with food or fruit possibly outnumber all the rest in any category.
The more fortunate of us take successive meals for granted. Unhappily, this is not the case in many parts of Israel nor in many other countries.
But ironically enough, the European clients of still- life painters were the well-off; but even they, like the painters themselves, simply took pleasure in beautifully painted displays of fruit and vegetables. Or of happy impressionist scenes of picnics, with or without naked ladies.
Of course a good still life of food was and is a trigger not only to the senses, but a reminder of well- being, of good times, if not of downright opulence.
But artists also painted peasants taking the simplest of meals. Van Gogh began his mature career with a depiction of potato eaters in 1882 (in this show is a photographic pastiche of it by Boaz Tal). Picasso's sad circus performers sit before empty plates. Paul Serusier's children at a simple meal are transformed in appetising color.
For the painter, making an artful arrangement of shapes and colors was the most pleasant and convenient of challenges, one that could be derived from a studio tabletop setup, without the bother of working out of doors, particularly in inclement European weather.
For poverty-stricken painters, a modest purchase of a few fruits, or even a collection of emptied bottles, was enough to set the creative wheels turning.
In the case of Courbet, Fantin Latour, Cezanne, Renoir (all represented here) such modest subjects often resulted in a marvelously organized masterpiece - and a reminder that a few centimes of fruit now often sells for huge sums.
The same goes for Warhol's large silk-screen of a banana.
This "interdisciplinary" exhibition at the Youth Wing touches not only on the depiction of food in painting, but also in sculpture, photography, film, video art, literature and poetry; and the five senses of sight, smell, taste, touch and even the sound of food; food as a social experience; and of course food as an artistic medium.
Mouths and chewing come in for special attention.
One large area of the show is covered with astro-turf and bounded by fake trees and pastiches of picnics by French painters. There's also a cibachrome pastiche of Manet's Dejeuner sur l'herbe 1865-66, made by Doron Solomons, complete with a nude. Available nearby are costumes and hats that children can wear to make a 19th century picnic tableaux, presumably without nudity.
As the show will be open for another year, an area has been set aside for changing displays by contemporary artists.
One such installation by Ido Bruno consists of an enormous column of food and cartons rising out of a shopping cart, the sum total of what an average Israeli purchases in a single year.
The list by the Bureau of Statistics is available in Hebrew or English; you can cross out or add to it the foods you prefer.
Michal Shamir's colorful "sculpture" of glued jujube/ rubber candies can theoretically be picked at by children, thus continually altering its shape; and Lily Poran's shoe fetish is really a hot number, being composed of red peppers.
Even more esoteric is a series of cibachromes by Vick Muniz of dancing figures printed as if in runny chocolate; and some satirical chocolate soldiers by Micha Laury. These date from decades ago.
A working kitchen designed by the Hi-Touch design company in Herzliya is a simple utilitarian affair. The museum from time to time invites chefs and their students to demonstrate their culinary talents.
They work from behind a long bar, with seats for the diners on the other side, a basic arrangement that has existed in one form or another for centuries and which was brought to perfection in the American diners and drugstore soda fountains of the Twenties and Thirties; and in the early Tokyo sushi bars.
Today diners in Tokyo and elsewhere (and even here) can sit at circular bars in front of a moving belt of sushi dishes; they can simply select whatever takes their fancy.
The modern kitchen, with its grills and microwave ovens, food processors and Teflon pans, is a reminder of how easy it is to prepare meals and clean up. When I was a boy, my mother cooked on a wood-burning stove and scoured soot and grease-covered enamel pots and pans; and so did World War II army cooks.
Half a century ago, everyone in Jerusalem cooked on smelly little kerosene wick stoves, called petiliot.
At the time, my eldest daughter sat in a high chair impatiently banging a spoon for service, just like the infant in a 19th-century high chair painted by Holland's Jozef Israels, a work that is just one of the many pleasures of this nicely designed, multi-dimensional, but not very deep show. Just right for kids.
For those who wish to dig deeper into the subject, I recommend Sir Roy Strong's new book Feast - A History of Grand Eating (London, Cape, GBP20)
вот бы ещё avva про выставки рассказывал... полный... ещё лучше, в общем, было бы...