Agnes Denes, Wheatfield: A Confrontation, 1982, downtown Manhattan, NY
Food holds a special place in visual culture and has been depicted in art dating back to paleolithic caves in France and Spain with paintings of hunting wild animals. Egyptians also made drawings of food in the pyramids on the walls of tombs as offerings to the dead. And, Romans painted large frescos with fruits placed in glass bowls on the walls of Pompeii. During the 16th and 17th Centuries, still life paintings of over flowing plates with prepared foods were also portrayed to represent opulence or wealth. And, food itself was used to make art with for street festivals through the 19th-century in Europe. The list goes on and on. The bottom line is that eating is an indispensable human activity and the drive to obtain food has been a major catalyst across all of history. It is responsible for the structures and institutions we call “civilization,” and has been an integral part of religious identity. Food historian Dr. Ken Albala states “Food is a Driver of Human History” and has connected the entire world through trade. With artists having such a long history of depicting food in art, it makes sense that today we have a number of contemporary artists addressing food issues with new more pressing perspectives. These artists are not so much concerned with portraying food as a way to show wealth as they are interested to ensure that we do not lose the quality and quantity of foods that we need for our human survival globally.
In 1971, artist Gordon Matta Clark along with Tina Girourard and Carol Gooden opened an artist run restaurant in Soho, New York City called FOOD to bring together artists and local community members, to provide a space for dialogue and conversation as well as a living piece of art. And, in 1979, Suzanne Lacy created a simultaneous world wide dinner happening titled International Dinner Party, a project that publicized networks of feminist organization on the eve of another artist, Judy Chicago’s exhibition titled Dinner Party at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. More recent projects similar to FOOD and International Dinner Party are:
The Waffle Shop (2008-2012) was a neighborhood restaurant organized by Pittsburgh artist Jon Rubin that produced and broadcast a live-streaming talk show with its customers and operated a changeable storytelling billboard on its roof. The project functioned as an eatery, a TV production studio, a social catalyst, and a business. More about this project there: http://culturalcapital.co/the-waffle-shop/
HISTORY OF ART & FOOD