Exhibit highlights the art in food

March 9, 2012 10:22:06 AM PST
Sometimes, in certain restaurants, you might think the results on the plate resemble a work of art. The tables are turned, however, at the University of Chicago's Smart Museum of Art.

That's where they have a tasty new exhibit.

Art does imitate life, in some respects, at the Smart Museum's latest exhibition, "Feast: Radical Hospitality in Contemporary Art."

From food trucks breaking down cultural barriers to sculpture, photography, even performance art.

Everything in this temporary show revolves around the edible world.

"There's so many artists who are doing such exciting thinking about the blurring of art and life. It's really one of the big stories in art over the last century," said Stephanie Smith, the chief curator at the Smart Museum. "Artists have been pushing at that edge and really thinking about ways that art can both live well within a museum and move out into the world."

In the case of a food truck, it's a piece entitled "Enemy Kitchen."

"He uses Iraqi foods as way to spark discussion across cultural difference and to really think about inner relationships between Iraqi's, the U.S. and the kind of aftermath the war," Smith said.

As you enter the free exhibit, you are greeted with a spoonful of slatko, a traditional strawberry jam served to house guests in Serbia.

"It's meant both to sweeten your tongue, so that you will not gossip about the experience afterwards. And to sweeten the experience of the visit. So, it's both very welcoming and kind of controlling," said Smith.

From a piece called "the act of drinking beer with friends," to a series of massive butter sculptures, the exhibit covers a range of edible art, going back four decades. A few of the pieces are what you would call "performance art," where visitors can actually get involved, such as with the two-person piece called "I Eat You Eat Me" by artist Mella Jaarsma.

"Literally binding yourself to someone else and taking responsibility for their well-being. She describes it as wearing the skin of the other," she said.

In "The Identical Lunch," visitors can also recreate a piece from artist Alison Knowles, from the 1960s.

"Sort fell into the habit of eating the same lunch every day. She would go to diner called Brisk foods and she will always get a tuna fish sandwich on wheat toast, butter, no mayo and a glass of buttermilk or cup of soup," said Smith.

There are also a series of images by Chicago photographer Laura Latinsky, scattered throughout the exhibit.

"She creates gorgeous images that are made form the aftermath of meals, but there also very much about the pleasures and the kind of melancholy of domestic feast," said Smith.

Another unique part of the exhibit is a series of traveling dinners around the city.

Feast: Radical Hospitality in Contemporary Art
February 16 - June 10, 2012
Smart Museum
5550 S. Greenwood Ave.
(773) 702-0200