Eat Like a Tenenbaum: Sandy Skoglund's "Cookies on a Plate"

Sandy Skoglund, Cookies on a Plate, 1978. LACMA, purchased with funds provided by Lynda and Robert Shapiro

In case you didn't know, Wes Anderson-inspired food and photos thereof are a thing. But long before The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) or even Bottle Rocket (1996), Sandy Skoglund was exploring the understated terrors of food that is too symmetrical, too twee, too preternaturally something or other. In a 1978 series of inkjet-printed photographs, "Food Still Lifes," Skoglund presents low-brow grub against busy backgrounds. Two examples in LACMA's "Objects of Desire: Photography and the Language of Advertising" steal the show. I can't stop thinking about Cookies on a Plate (Keebler Fudge Stripes). Skoglund also adds to the short list of great pictures of Spam.

Sandy Skoglund, Luncheon Meat on a Counter, 1978. LACMA
The exhibition prompted me to look up other works from the 1978 "Food Still Lifes." Here's marble cake against a marbled backdrop and a silly symphony of peas and carrots (neither in the LACMA show, however).

Sandy Skoglund, Nine Slices of Marble Cake, 1978
Sandy Skogland, Peas and Carrots on a Plate, 1978
"Objects of Desire" is about the influence of Madison Avenue on high-art photography. In Skoglund's case, a comparison to filmmaker Anderson may be no less instructive. Both create a tension between the naïveté of a candy-colored fiction and the presumably sophisticated viewer. Set pieces might be described as nostalgic, retro, or cheery, yet the effect is one of of wistful remove.

Susan Sontag: "For no one who wholeheartedly shares in a given sensibility can analyze it; he can only, whatever his intention, exhibit it. To name a sensibility, to draw its contours and to recount its history, requires a deep sympathy modified by revulsion."

Don Draper: "What is happiness? It's a moment before you need more happiness."

David Ma: Watch his imagineered version of a Wes Anderson S'mores recipe.


Anonymous said…
I have to admit that since those works are photos, the fact they'll quickly end up in the museum's storage vaults and remain there for years on end (and that the new LACMA is going to be smaller than the older one) doesn't bother me as much.