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Brian Ulrich, Jonathan Seliger, Sonny Assu

Stocked: Contemporary Art from the Grocery Aisles

Campbell’s. Coca-Cola. Del Monte. Kellogg’s. In the late 1950s and 1960s, these food conglomerates became household names as America witnessed a revolution in the production, retail, and consumption of grocery items. More and more, it was not raw ingredients one purchased, but packaged and processed foods that were chosen according to their labels and one’s […]

May 25 - Sep 1, 2013

Campbell’s. Coca-Cola. Del Monte. Kellogg’s. In the late 1950s and 1960s, these food conglomerates became household names as America witnessed a revolution in the production, retail, and consumption of grocery items. More and more, it was not raw ingredients one purchased, but packaged and processed foods that were chosen according to their labels and one’s perception of the brands they represented.

Campbell’s. Coca-Cola. Del Monte. Kellogg’s. These brands were also the subjects of the mid-20th-century pop artists. As corporations revolutionized the food industry, these artists turned the art world upside down by unabashedly depicting common consumer products, often using reproductive techniques and designs borrowed from commercial marketing. Iconic among these artworks are Andy Warhol’s reproductions of Campbell’s soup cans and their calculated conflation of art and everyday life.

Campbell’s. Coca-Cola. Del Monte. Kellogg’s. In the second decade of the 21st century, we still know these brands produce soup, sodas, fruit, and breakfast cereal. Yet, our present moment is markedly different from that of fifty years ago. Our grocery shopping experiences now include computerized terminals, digital coupons, and products covered in labels highlighting nutrition content—“low fat, high fiber, Omega-3s”—and environmental impact—“certified organic, 100% recycled.” Documentaries such as Food Inc., books such as Mark Bittman’s Food Matters, and television programs such as Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution are but a few indicators that Americans are reconsidering what they eat, how they eat it, and even the sources of their food.

Stocked: Contemporary Art from the Grocery Aisles presents the work of contemporary artists who, directly and indirectly, take the grocery store and consumption of its products as their subjects. In contrast to historic pop’s celebration of everyday consumption, they note the seductive aesthetic appeal of commercial products with degrees of uneasiness. Using a variety of styles and media, they keenly and cleverly interrogate not only the grocery items we purchase, but also the physical and psychological environments in which we shop, the individuals and social frameworks we encounter there, and the cultural norms that inform our habits of consumption.

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