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Food for thought

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Food for thought

By Elaine Wolff

"It's not much of an exhibit," I was cautioned on my way to see Food for Thought, on view at the San Antonio Museum of Art through the end of the month. With a handful of treats by Carmen Lomas Garza, Rupert Garcia, and Andy Warhol, that's not exactly true, but the one-room show does lack the fiber that would bind the loose pieces into a substantive whole.

The prints, drawn from the museum's permanent collection, include a Warhol soup can, one of Rolando Briseno's whirling tabletops, and works by Cruz Ortiz. As the show's statement notes, "Much of the work in this exhibition is associated with the Pop Art Movement ... the pop artist insists on the primacy of everyday experience and popular imagery." Perhaps more salient to the show's flimsiness, pop art's take on food reflected American culture's transcendence of day-to-day survival - for many citizens in our culture, food can be abstracted because fear of doing without it doesn't exist.

Food isn't necessarily about food, in other words, which is why the curator's argument that "because of its importance to survival and its relationship to everyday life is one of the earliest and most common themes of art," gives short shrift to the range of ideas expressed here. The simple "Maguey de la Vida," by Rupert Garcia, comes closest to that theme, portraying the versatile maguey plant in a dark green silhouette, deified by a crown of sunset orange glowing between its spines.

Carmen Lomas Garza celebrates the role of food in family cohesion, hinting at the way relative prosperity, or lack of it, can keep families together or pry them apart in a search for work and sustenance.

Briseño takes a big step away from this relatively uncomplicated association by walking a fine line between celebration and satire of the clash between old cultures and new.

Warhol and Ortiz, on the other hand, use food as a metaphor for mass production and emotional hunger, respectively. And Oldenberg appears to be simply playing around with his "Pizza Palette."

The sleek deco eatery of John Braeden's "Empire Diner" isn't about food anymore than the Chrysler Building was about cars, while Celia Alvarez Munoz's wonderful "Which Came First: Enlightenment #4," uses chickens and eggs to muse over cultural misunderstanding, language barriers, and forced assimilation.

The individual ingredients are worth a detour through the second-foor anteroom which houses Food for Thought. Just bring your own mixer.

By Elaine Wolff


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