February 08, 2010

The Getty Museum Presents "In Focus: Tasteful Pictures"

At the J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Center, April 6 - August 22, 2010

“Kitchen (Cuisine),” 1931; credit: Man Ray Trust / J. Paul Getty Museum

LOS ANGELES—The J. Paul Getty Museum presents In Focus: Tasteful Pictures, a survey of important technological and aesthetic developments in photographic representations of food, on view at the Getty Center from April 6–August 22, 2010. 

Photographers have been enticed by the subject of food since the earliest years of the medium. Drawn entirely from the permanent collection, the works in this exhibition provide an overview of the Getty Museum’s world-renowned collection of photographs through the subject of food. The images span a period of 150 years, from the mid-19th century until today. The exhibition features both masterpieces and lesser known works. Among the photographers featured are Roger Fenton, Adolphe Braun, Edward Weston, Bill Owens, Martin Parr, and Taryn Simon.  Several works are recent acquisitions, on view for the very first time.

“This exhibition contains a wide variety of images that showcase both appealing and not-so-appealing aspects of food,” said Virginia Heckert, associate curator, Department of Photographs, the J. Paul Getty Museum, and curator of the exhibition. “The title ‘Tasteful Pictures’ refers both to the subject of food and aesthetic preferences, particularly how the latter may have shifted over time.” 

Among the selection of works in the exhibition is William Eggleston’s captivating photograph Memphis (1971), which frames a white-frosted square of freezer haphazardly stocked with a jumble of “tasty” frozen food items. The inclusion of ice-encrusted walls and adjectives announcing “artificially flavored” transforms the promise of plentiful choice into the compromise of convenience. Eggleston adopted a casual, snapshot-like style when focusing his 35mm camera on ordinary, even banal, objects and situations, demonstrating that compelling compositions could be created from the least attractive of subjects. 

For Cuisine (Kitchen), Man Ray utilized the cameraless photogram process to animate his image of a roasted chicken on a bed of rice. The coiled spring he placed atop a sheet of photographic paper while exposing the print creates a spiral that suggests both an oven heating element and a world modernized by electricity. Commissioned by a utility company in Paris in 1931, the image was intended to promote domestic uses of electricity.

On view for the first time since it entered the Getty’s collection in 1999, is Floris Neusüss’ Supper with Heinecken (1983), a large-scale photogram that depicts the progress of a dinner party with exposures at the beginning and end of a meal that was enjoyed over the course of several hours in a room lit only with a darkroom safelight.  Shadowy images of dinnerware, cutlery, wine bottles and glasses, spaghetti, grapes, eggs, a loaf of bread, and a corkscrew can be seen, as well as residue created by foods and liquids spilling onto the paper that was then developed and fixed.

Other selections from In Focus: Tasteful Pictures include American photographer Weegee’s Bagels, Second Avenue (1940), which depicts a New York baker rushing freshly made bagels to a restaurant in the dark predawn hours, and a group of 24 untitled images from Martin Parr’s arresting British Food series (1995), among them a half-eaten plate of food, fork, and knife resting casually on the plate, as if in mid-meal. 

The exhibition includes a broad range of photographic processes, from salt, albumen, carbon, and gum bichromate prints made in the nineteenth century to gelatin silver and platinum prints made in the twentieth century. Examples of contemporary color photography can be found in dye transfer and Chromogenic prints.

In Focus: Tasteful Pictures will be the sixth installation of the ongoing “In Focus” series of exhibitions, thematic presentations of photographs from the Getty’s permanent collection.  Previous exhibitions focused on The Nude, The Landscape, The Portrait, Making a Scene (staged photographs), and most recently, The Worker.

Upcoming “In Focus” shows include In Focus: Still Life opening in September 2010, which explores the ways in which still life has served as both a conventional and an experimental form of photography during periods of significant aesthetic and technological change.  Also upcoming is In Focus: Trees, opening in February 2011. 

All events are free, unless otherwise noted. Seating reservations are required. For reservations and information, please call (310) 440-7300 or visit

Picturing Food
Evan Kleiman, host of KCRW’s Good Food, leads a panel discussion exploring the visual aesthetics of food with Darra Goldstein, founding editor of Gastronomica; Maite Gomez-Rejón, chef and founder of Artbites; and photographer Charlie Grosso.
Thursday, April 8, 7 p.m.
Harold M. Williams Auditorium 

Food in Art Tour
Delve into the relationship between food and art! This special, hour-long tour takes you through delectable works in the permanent collection and the exhibition In Focus: Tasteful Pictures.
Meet the gallery teacher at the Museum Information Desk.
Tuesday–Sunday, April 27–June 27, 1:30 pm

GettyGuide™ Audio Player
In Focus: Tasteful Pictures Audio
Listen to exhibition curator Virginia Heckert discuss the stories behind diverse images of food, exploring how and why the artists portrayed these tasteful pictures. Pick up an audio player in the Museum Entrance Hall.

Art Tasting Audio Tour
Are you hungry for a different, and appetizing, take on art? Get a taste of the objects in the Getty Museum’s collection with this 30-minute audio tour focused on food-related objects in the Getty’s permanent collection. Learn how food and wine connect works of art to fantasy, fashion, and politics over time. What was the energy drink of Aztec warriors? Why was only soup on the menu in early restaurants? To find out, listen to stories about the tables of European royalty and beyond! The tour features Getty Museum curators and Linda Civitello, author of Cuisine and Culture: A History of Food and People. GettyGuide™ audio player: $5.  Available every day in the Museum Entrance Hall. 

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Melissa Abraham
Getty Communications

About the Getty:

The J. Paul Getty Trust is an international cultural and philanthropic institution devoted to the visual arts that features the Getty Conservation Institute, the Getty Foundation, the J. Paul Getty Museum, and the Getty Research Institute. The J. Paul Getty Trust and Getty programs serve a varied audience from two locations: the Getty Center in Los Angeles and the Getty Villa in Malibu.

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