Despite its origins in the frescoes of antiquity, its
spectacular propagation in seventeenth-century Europe, and its stubborn
persistence through all the cultural changes of the ensuing eras, the still
life has generally been dismissed as a minor form of artistic expression and
ranked below the traditional genres of religious and history painting,
portraiture, and landscape. Throughout the twentieth century, however, artists
have challenged, transgressed, and perpetually renewed the still life theme,
engaging it as an exemplary and even paradigmatic vehicle for the recasting,
but also the subversion, of earlier traditions. Objects of Desire: The
Modern Still Life, organized by Margit Rowell, Chief Curator of the
Museums Department of Drawings, explores this process through a rigorous
selection of 131 works by seventy-one American and European artists. The
exhibition is divided into nine sections, which together
present an inquiry into the still life as an evolving system of representation
that ultimately reflects the relationships between art, society, and its
objects, and embodies moral, economic, and social codes of meaning.
The exhibition travels to The Hayward Gallery, London (October 9, 1997January 4, 1998).
An indemnity for the exhibition has been granted by the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities. Generous support is provided by AT&T.
The publication accompanying the exhibition is made possible by a generous grant from the Blanchette Hooker Rockefeller Fund.
Publication: Objects of Desire: The Modern Still Life.
Written by Margit Rowell. 232 pp., 147 ills., 131 in color. Clothbound $50, paper $24.95.
The brochure text reprinted here was written by Christina Houstian, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Drawings.