Food and Drink 

The art of eating and the eating of art


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Andy Warhol clearly saw the infinite possibilities of building art around food during his place in history. No coincidence he used the banana as emblem, which came to symbolize his Factory and pop art itself. Hands down, bananas are the most popular fruit in the world.

Then there were his famous Campbell’s soup cans, as much about mass production, pop culture and other big ideas as they were about food. Since his dear mom often fed him Campbell’s soup, it became Warhol’s ultimate comfort food, something he still served to visiting guests at his New York apartment even when he was immersed in fame and fortune and those white-haired wigs.

His silent film Eat was 45 minutes of nothing but pop artist Robert Indiana eating a mushroom. Think mushroom as food, but wait — what if it’s poisonous? Then there’s the scary mushroom cloud (atomic bomb). Things mushroom out of control — especially with mushrooms as hallucinogens, especially in the 1960s, especially in Warhol’s Factory world.

Robert Indiana was a pretty interesting food/art conjurer himself. He’s best known for his LOVE series of paintings, sculptures, rugs — you name it, it’s for sale. But his “EAT/DIE” series is even more intriguing. It’s based on the last word Indiana’s mom said to him on her deathbed: “Eat.” Ugh, what an exhortation to live and die by.

Janine Antoni, another Big Apple-based artist, has also come up with some pretty wild art pieces based on food and the body (she also dips her hair in paint and mops canvases with it, and loads her eyelashes with eyeliner and “draws” by blinking).

One of her most famous pieces, “Gnaw”, is a three-part installation/performance art piece based on two large cubes: one is 600 pounds of chocolate and the other, 600 pounds of lard. She partially gnawed both in performance in 1992.

Besides bristling with references to the art world (cubism, minimalism, Joseph Beuys and his lard obsession and all that), the whole piece drums up a cornucopia of cultural and political issues, especially around women and bulimia, consuming and discarding: What she would swallow, what would she spit out? How much would she, could she eat? Mouth as an organ to ingest, and to expel.

The final part was a display of 130 lipsticks Antoni made with pigment, beeswax, and lard she gnawed off and chewed from the lard cube, and more than two dozen heart-shaped packages — suitable for holding chocolates — made from chocolate she bit off and chewed from the chocolate cube.

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