Category: In the Round

Considering the era of its making—the decade of the Vietnam War and resistance to it in many national capitals, anti-government protests across the globe, and both nonviolent and armed uprisings against institutional discrimination and social inequity—Mauritius provokes questions about human conflicts, their histories, and their costs.

Throughout his more than four-decade-long career in the arts, Brooker has created a distinctive artistic language that calls out to viewers to not only look at his work as arrangements of patterns, colors, and shapes on canvas or paper, but also as investigations into the divine.

These papers, drawn from our cochaired session, The Gustatory Turn in American Art, at the College Art Association 2017 Annual Conference, illustrate how artists and viewers have used the platform of food to investigate connections between aesthetics and social politics. Contributors include Katherine Manthorne, Aileen Tsui, Lauren Freese, and Margaretta Lovell.

Consider the humble raisin. In a world where foodstuffs are increasingly dissociated from their place of origin, why does the raisin continue to be associated with one locale, when they are in fact grown globally, from Chile and Argentina to Turkey? We should ask why when we “think raisins” do we “think California,” as an oft-repeated advertising mantra instructs us?

In times of economic and environmental crisis, illustrators for the popular press often produced images of charity that worked alongside text to explain philanthropic processes and to demonstrate the effectiveness of various types of food aid. In addition to this instructional function, depictions of food aid reinforced social boundaries between the recipients of charity, viewers, and those with the ability to offer their time and resources. As a force for difference, these images utilize food and philanthropy as legible and significant markers of class.

Margaretta M. Lovell, Jay D. McEvoy, Jr., Professor of American Art, Art History Department, University of California, Berkeley

The visual rhetorics incorporated into these images trigger (in different ways) both physical appetite and social appetite, and their mechanisms for doing so appear to have remained constant in recent decades despite new competition from expansive digital venues. They incorporate power relations, aesthetic pleasure, and voyeurism. But food aesthetics are neither universal nor isolated; they echo (and feed) the cultural and political contexts in which they circulate so we can see change over time within underlying sameness.