A Matter of Taste

Curator Kimberly Schrimsher

September 30 - January 7

Bunzl Gallery

As Virginia Woolf said, “one cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” Food and water are essential for survival, but mankind’s relationship to food has transformed over time from one of sustenance to one laden with personal and cultural significance. 

A Matter of Taste explores depictions of food and drink in art and reveals how images of fruits and vegetables can function as complex metaphors for excess, status, memory, and politics. Drawn from southern museums and private collections, this exhibition showcases over 35 paintings, decorative arts, and works on paper by artists such as Andy Warhol, Wayne Thiebaud, Henri Cartier-Bresson and Claes Oldenburg.

            This show spans 400 years and multiple continents, revealing the evolving role of food and drink in various media and cultural contexts. While depictions of fruit and vegetables appeared in ancient times, still life painting as an independent genre dates to 16th-century Holland.

In 19th-century America, still life paintings remained popular but evolved in terms of subject matter, media, and message. Painters such as Thomas Wightman, George Forster, and De Scott Evans embraced Dutch still lifes and used food as commentary on the current political climate and the transient state of the human condition.

           Illustrated newspapers led to an increase of cartoons by artists such as Winslow Homer and William Hogarth, who utilized food and drink as social satire. The 20th-century modern art movement further changed the perception of food. The culture of mass production enabled Pop artists to elevate seemingly mundane foodstuffs to high art. Yet, other contemporary artists explored the symbolic and nostalgic role of food seen in works by Tim Tate, Linda Armstrong, and Laquita Thomson.

Visitors will also experience an elaborately set dining table fit for a sumptuous feast. Dining became its own art form over time and communicated one’s social standing and wealth. Each of the table’s six place settings represent a different culture and offer a glimpse into global dining customs. Selective drinkware will accompany this section revealing how tea sets and even punch bowls reflected an owner’s prestige.

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