Saturday in the Museum with Claes

Image: Oldenburg and van Bussen, Shuttlecock/Blueberry Pies I & II (1999).

We like to focus on art that takes food as its subject for our Saturday posts. Today, we take note of a passing of an artist who worked on a monumental scale, often with food as his subject.

Claes Oldenburg died this past week at the age of 93. Born in Sweden, he came to prominence with the American Pop Art movement in the 60s. Common objects, such as clothespins, buttons, badminton shuttlecocks, and the giant typewriter eraser in the National Gallery sculpture garden were some of his most prominent pieces. They managed to be playful, relatively uncomplicated representations of common objects while retaining a sense of artistic perspective. The risk of kitsch that undermines the piece is a constant risk.

Food, though, was one of his first and most frequent subjects, as the Times obit makes clear. Raised in Chicago after moving from Europe, he understood the heart of the American appetite. “When I am served a plate of food, I see shapes and forms, and I sometimes don’t know whether to eat the food or look at it.” Perhaps his most iconic piece in this regard is the “Spoonbridge and Cherry” in Minneapolis. Starting in the 70s, Oldenburg collaborated with his wife Coosje van Bruggen, who died in 2009.

The piece above is from a Metropolitan Museum rooftop exhibit in 2002 is one a pair called Shuttlecock/Blueberry Pies I and II from 1999.