Yancey Richardson Gallery is pleased to present Oldenburgs, an exhibition of new photographs by Sharon Core in which she playfully examines the work of Claes Oldenburg. By transforming Oldenburg’s crudely made sculptures of American food, such as hamburgers, ice cream treats, and slices of pie, into larger-than-life photographs of edible food, these humorous objects are made to appear simultaneously delectable and grotesque. The series represents a continuation of Core’s interest in the relationship between art, food, and the commodification of both.
Oldenburg’s sculptures were first on view at The Store, a storefront he opened in 1961 on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, featuring items for sale that one might find at any corner store, except his were made out of painted plaster. Oldenburg’s inspiration came from the everyday, which he used to question American society’s celebration of consumer culture; similarly, Core is interested in the current obsession with photographing food, or as she describes it, “the representation of food as fetish object”. Speaking of the impetus for the series, Core explains: “The subject of food in photography has become a ubiquitous fixture of personal contemporary life, and I was curious about how a re-framing of Oldenburg’s food sculptures would operate in the present photographic landscape.”
The oversized scale of the photographs serves to heighten their sensorial impact. In Pie a la Mode, 2006/2018, for example, one cannot escape the excess of color and texture; it is as if the cream were melting into the pie before one’s eyes. Yet, there is an uncanny quality to the photograph, caused both by the scale, which allows for a minute level of detail, as well as the overly-saturated colours, which leaves the viewer feeling slightly repelled. Hamburger with Pickle and Tomato Attached, 2006/2018, verges on the surreal. The overly shiny surface of the bun sows seeds of doubt as to whether this is in fact a real burger, and the glossy green of the pickle appear to have been painted.
By photographing recreations of canonical artworks, Core’s series embodies the contradiction that lies at the heart of Oldenburg’s project; each photograph represents both the art object created by Oldenburg and a disposable item of food. Not only this, but the photographs are themselves works of art, which adds another layer of complexity to the series. Core presses on the distinction between original and copy, photograph and sculpture. In a very literal sense, the objects she photographs are more real than Oldenburg’s sculptures, and because of this incite contradictory, visceral feelings of desire and disgust. Core highlights the fetishistic obsession with food in today’s society, drawing an uncomfortable parallel between food and fine art, which ultimately urges us to question the way in which we relate to both.