Paula Cooper Gallery is pleased to present “Still Life & Kicking,” a group show curated by Dodie Kazanjian for Vogue.
Motivated by an interest in how contemporary artists might challenge, subvert or recast traditional still life, Kazanjian has chosen to exhibit works by 14 artists from Europe and the United States. Many of the still lifes were commissioned by Vogue and photographed for the magazine’s June issue.
The participating artists are: John Baldessari, Maurizio Cattelan, John Chamberlain, Paul Chan, Chuck Close, George Condo, Rachel Harrison, Sherrie Levine, Elizabeth Peyton, Pipilotti Rist, Hannah van Bart, Dan Walsh, Lawrence Weiner and Franz West. The term “still life” usually denotes painted arrangements of inanimate objects such as fruit and flowers, books or musical instruments. The genre flourished in 17th century Europe, particularly in the Netherlands, where a newly formed middle class was beginning to replace the Church and the aristocracy as principal patrons of the arts. Free of the weight of class and religion, artists were free to pursue more naturalistic styles independent of prescribed imagery. Thus was born a symbolic language to critique the emerging bourgeoisie’s materialism and other middleclass concerns.
Artistic training soon became formalized in the academy, which in turn favored hierarchically based subject matter, which eclipsed popular genre painting. Genre painting regained popularity with the rise of Impressionism and Post-impressionism, and the fiercely antiacademic work of artists such as Courbet and Van Gogh. For Cézanne in particular, the still life became an ideal vehicle for experiments with spatial organization of shapes, anticipating the development of Cubism. In the United States, the still life tradition gained ground in the early 1800s, and by the 20th century Stuart Davis, Marsden Hartley, and Georgia O’Keefe, among others, revealed the impact of European Modernism in their interpretations of genre painting. Major photographers of the 20th century, including Man Ray and Edward Weston also reinvigorated the genre. Pop artists Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Wayne Thiebaud and Tom Wesselman offered diverse styles of the still life while also celebrating the ironies of our consumer culture. With boundaries greatly expanded, the still life continues to inspire contemporary artists and allow each of us to appreciate the everyday objects that surround us.
Vogue!s Editor at Large and the Director of Gallery Met at the Metropolitan Opera, Dodie Kazanjian lives and works in New York. Still Life & Kicking is the third gallery exhibition organized by Kazanjian for Vogue. In 2003, Deitch Projects inaugurated their SoHo space with Self Portraits: A Vogue Portfolio and Mitchell-Innes & Nash exhibited Nudes in Vogue in their Chelsea gallery in 2005.