Making the mundane marvellous: continued

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LA artist Justin Beal's Fruit Tables consist of nothing more than glass panes, pieces of fruit and roughly constructed plinths.

contemporary artists - Justin Beal
Justin Beal, 'Grapefruit Table
image © the artist

Placed between the base and the glass, the unevenness of the fruit renders the structure useless as a table, valid only as a sculptural presence.

Yet as the fruit rots, the glass lowers to meet the plinth, eventually providing the flat surface that allows the work to fulfil its titular function.

 

Food is also a central component in Believe, by UK artist Jack Strange.

Consisting of a (genuine) chocolate bar of the same name placed on an upturned TV set, the screen beneath the candy displays a continuous loop of swirling, ambiental visuals.

Without ever revealing its maker's intent, the piece nevertheless raises a plethora of questions as to what, exactly, the artwork is asking us to believe.

contemporary artist - Jack Strange
Jack Strange, 'Believe'
© the artist

At first glance, the wording on the chocolate wrapper seems an attempt to establish the work's authority, a claim that, despite the juxtaposition of seemingly incongruous, utterly ordinary elements, the piece is entirely valid as art.

Yet the slightly cheesy video loop also appears parodic, a quest to undermine the ridiculous, even disturbing, nature of a morally significant imperative applied to nothing more than candy. In an entirely different reading, the psychedelic swirl becomes a classic cinematic metaphor for altered states of mind, and by reminding the viewer of the immense power of branding to manipulate perception, the possibility arises that a chocolate bar may indeed be capable of inspiring belief of some kind.

While interpretation ultimately remains open-ended, the work presents us with one verifiable certainty.

The chocolate bar is a genuine product, a self-styled "limited edition" version of a familiar brand. Commerce may be increasingly inclined to hijack the terminology of art as a promotional vehicle, but here the artist goes one better by placing a chocolate bar-cum-artwork at the center of his own chocolate bar art.

 

New strategies: creative concealment

There's nothing especially new in a creative re-assessment of the everyday - Arte Povera and the ready-made provide just two examples of art forms in which the quotidian takes center stage - yet the complexity Jack Strange (above) elicits from commonplace objects is indicative of a growing shift in the art of the ordinary.

Demanding a high degree of engagement from the viewer, it's a tendency that can almost be seen as a specific corrective to contemporary lifestyles, confronting issues such as poor concentration, materialism and a need for instant gratification.

To achieve its purpose, some degree of subterfuge is needed, a lack of immediacy which necessitates an act of discovery. And the result is an art so subtle that it's almost impossible to recognize as art at all.

 

art of the ordinary: continued >

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