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Ausstellungsansicht Pizza Is God © NRW-Forum Düsseldorf / Foto B. Babic

Pizza is God

Duration: 16.2.-20.5.2018  
Opening: 15.2.2018, 7 pm 
Press meeting:
 15.2.2018, 11 am

PRESS RELEASE

9th Feb 2018 

Pizza: From cult to art object
International group exhibition "Pizza is God"

Pizza is pop culture, part of art history and now a world heritage site. With the exhibition "Pizza is God" we dedicate an international group exhibition to the pop phenomenon of pizza from Feb 16th to May 20th 2018.

It is official: Pizza has been added to the list of intangible assets on the World Heritage List. The Düsseldorf band Antilopen Gang has already dedicated it a veritable anthem this year. The first Pizza Pavilion was opened at the Venice Biennale in 2015. As one of the most popular memes, pizzas have long been available everywhere on the net. What is the fascination of pizza?

The international group exhibition "Pizza is God" explores the cultural significance and iconic power of pizza. With Cory Arcangel, Darren Bader, John Baldessari, Paul Barsch, Simon M. Benedict, Lars Bent Petersen, Katherine Bernhardt, John Bock, Chris Bradley, Marco Bruzzone, Jennifer Chan, R. Crumb, Simon Dybbroe Møller, Tom Friedman, Uffe Isolotto, Thomas Judisch, Martin Kippenberger, Jonas Lund, PIZZA PAVILION, PIZZAG8 by PCNC_BAY x BLUNT x SKENSVED, Torben Ribe, Reena Spaulings, Spencer Sweeney, Daniel van Straalen, Sebastian Schmieg and Claude Viallat.

Painting, photography, net art, video and performances: artists have been dealing with the cult object of pizza for decades and have been using it to explore the social and aesthetic themes of their time. Pizza is God presents the more recent visual history of pizza as well as current works by contemporary young artists. 

A brief cultural history of pizza

Pizza has always been the favourite food of the Internet generation. As early as 1993, it was possible to order pizza online, long before Amazon, Google or Ebay was founded. But not only geeks love them. Every second German names pizza as one of his favourite dishes. Last year, more than 20 million pizzas were ordered from Germany's largest pizza portal. The typical German Pizza Eater is called Christian, lives in Hamburg, is a student, eats his salami pizza in the evening, sitting on the sofa and on the weekend (Pizza Report 2016).

The first pizza is said to have been baked in Naples in 1889 and was quickly spread to the USA by Italian emigrants towards the end of the century. In post-war America in the 1950s, it became a popular cultural myth and a social catalyst. Sharing a pizza, meeting up for a pizza, ordering a pizza together became the new social event and ritual of American youth culture. At the latest with Warhol and Pop Art, what has always existed in the 1960s becomes suitable for the masses: symbolically charged food as part of visual communication and art. With the Pizza Pavilion at the Biennale 2015, the pizza was once and for all ennobled as a high culture and an object of art history.

Artists of the exhibition

There is a whiff of comic book mythology around Spencer Sweeney‘s paintings, stirring and violent, but also disturbing and streaked with gleams of hope. Sweeney is a successful artist, musician, DJ, club owner and a dazzling figure in the New York underground. In his work there are many painted self-portraits. The exhibited work Pizza God, for example, looks like a more elaborate version of his 2011 painting Nude Self-Portrait with Pizza and sets the sacred tone for the exhibition.

Chris Bradley finds cultural and aesthetic meaning in everyday life by including color canisters, pizza boxes and discarded do-it-yourself tools in his highly tangible process. Many of his important objects look like trompe l‘oeil, handmade to reflect the subtle details of true inspiration – his ice bag sculptures, for example, contain individual glass ice cubes. Bradley is deeply interested in the history and figurative symbolism of his secular objects, and gives each key fob and banana peel its own artistic mojo. His metal pizza box sculptures serve as a carrier for highly abstract faces.

Katerine Bernhardt is known for her huge colorful graffiti paintings populated by banal items and products such as toilet paper, hammerhead sharks, cigarettes, keyboards, pineapples, Doritos chips and pizza slices arranged in jazzy semi-abstract combinations. For this exhibition she has exclusively made a work of art with pizza, wasps and zigarettes.

Lars Bent Petersen is a Danish sculptor and installation artist. He examines how traditional institutional structures such as economics and power function explicitly in society. His works show a polemical space that addresses the reflexive activity of the viewer on existing societal structures. His pizza work Unregistered work (bonus) from 2006, which shows a half-eaten pizza left unattended in the box, refers among other things to current conditions and cultural practices of consumer culture and food intake.

During the opening of documenta 14 in Athens, the localand international public had theopportunity to celebrate extensive aftershows as a pizza topping. The installation and performance of the artist group PCNC_BAY x BLUNT x SKENSVED invited viewers to sit and relax in a dark room with an oversized textile pizza sculpture. Anyone who looked up and saw the red LED‘s, the “heating elements”, soon noticed that they were in an oversized oven and cooking on a pizza in it. With the title PIZZAG8, the installation uses the much-discussed online “Pizzagate” scandal, which shook the US media landscape (and thus also the presidential elections) in 2016 as a “fake news” message circulating in the social media, as a vehicle for its aftershow concept and thus indirectly refers to the penetrating power of the internet meme.

During the 56th Venice Biennale (2015), Paul Barsch and Konstanze Schütze, in collaboration with Simona Lamparelli and Matteo Ceretto Castigliani, initiated the first international PIZZA PAVILION. The pizza creations of 19 international artists, who were limited by the ingredients available in a local pizzeria, were baked, offered for consumption and sold on-site. The PIZZA PAVILION menu was an additional offer (a kind of add-on in the CO2 world) and was integrated almost unnoticeably into the pizzeria‘s usual menu. The virtual as well as globalized concept of pizza was brought to a second – perhaps even more authentic – physical life in a local pizzeria through the artists’ creations. The exuberant presence of pizza in television, cinema and the internet is increasingly turning the culinary concept of pizza into its more dominant online version. For the duration of the exhibition, PIZZA PAVILION will be a satellite to the show hosted by a Düsseldorf pizzeria. www.pizzapavilion.net

Through the practice of artistic appropriation, Daniel van Straalen explores the process of artistic creation. He temporarily acquires the working methods of a successful artist and tests the limits of copyright, language and our own reality. Straalen‘s work Studio Life consists of stacked pizza boxes and refers to the side effects of artistic work processes.

The artist Tom Friedman prepares his oversized sculptures down to the smallest detail. The artist‘s view of what is depicted is neutral and functional, almost sterile, bestowed on him by the aesthetics of mass-produced products. Fully in the tradition of an artist like Karl Blossfeldt, he reveals the surreal, the absurd and the irrational in everyday life. A huge blow-up version of a pizza on the wall makes the aesthetic presence of the relationship between.

Martin Kippenberger is considered one of the most famous German artists. With mockery, cynicism, provocation and clever humor, the enfant terrible Kippenberger embarked on the dismantling of the traditional concept of art and, with these endeavors, embraced the tradition of Dada and Fluxus. In addition to painting, he also used the media of performance, sculpture and photography, making music and magazines. This enormous diversity of his artistic production was also due to a special interweaving of personality and work, he celebrated his wild „Me, Inc.“ and at the same time spoofed the art world. His 1993 edition Pollock-ed Poorly-Topped Student Pizza shows common features of artistic and trivial life (and survival) strategies in a humorous way.

Reena Spaulings is a collective project based in New York, expressing itself in the form of a novel, artist persona and art gallery. Initially, Reena Spaulings was created as a branch of the Bernadette Corporation in the form of a collectively written novel and has since expanded to become an artist persona and art gallery. The Spaulings initiative speaks to ideas of collectivity, anonymity, and artistic categorization through literature and artistic production. Reena Spauling's series Enigma breaks the sublime gesture of monochrome painting with the chosen image carrier (pizza boxes). The colour as an autonomous medium is thus fed back to a reality of everyday life and placed in the centre of attention.

The performance artist John Bock stems from a generation of artists who are distinguished above all by their efforts to explore and broaden the boundaries of the concept of art. He is particularly known for his performances, which are preceded by the construction of a sophisticated backdrop and various props made of found material. These artefacts remain intact after the performances and make us wonder what they were once part of. A rudimentary shelf with burnt pizzas was on display in Bock‘s show FischGräteMelkStand at the Temporäre Kunsthalle in Berlin in 2010. In 2015 an edition of trousers with unique pizza paintings will be released. In addition, several limited edition booklets appeared in reworked pizza boxes from 1996–2005.

With the bronze casting Margherita Moments, Thomas Judisch translates, in a convincingly small gesture, the topos vanitas into three dimensions. Placed carelessly on a wall or bench, the half-eaten piece of pizza on a paper plate in all its vitality serves as a motif of decay. Cast in bronze, the ensemble preserves the moment between devotion and turning away for eternity.

John Baldessari is the most experimental American conceptual artist. He switched from painting to billboards, advertising panels, film, digital art, credit cards and apps – and so it is not surprising that he also contributed a work for the wallpaper collection curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist and Julia Peyton-Jones. The master of appropriation combines unusual pairs of objects to create a formal visual relationship.

Paul Barsch’s works are the result of research, experiments and the combination of culturally charged materials, speculative content and relationships. Pizza Voyeur addresses the object-subject relations. Viewer, artwork and context form one active entity. Like a security camera, the pizza looks at us like we could never look at it. The object (pizza) becomes the driving force in this relationship.

In her work, Jennifer Chan explores Internet fetish communities. Her work addresses internet pop culture, specifically the representation of masculinity and the various constructions of femininity under the male gaze. She presents her findings in creative gestures, through which she strives for a better understanding of complex motivations and power structures. Young Money is about the interconnected nature of various capitals: cultural, social, financial. Big Sausage Pizza divulges Chan‘s critical fantasies of white masculinity in relation to the internet.

Andy Warhol loved trivial subjects of pop culture and attributes of consumer culture. „What‘s great about this country is that America started the tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same things as the poorest,“ he said. And so Warhol ate a hamburger for a scene by Danish filmmaker Jørgen Leth. “This particular scene is the artistic essence of Andy Warhol, in all its simplicity,“ Leth later said. In 2012 Macaulay Culkin, the former children‘s star from Home Alone, founded the comedy band the Pizza Underground, a parody of the Velvet Underground, and rewrote numerous classics for Pizza Oden. And as a tribute to Warhol, Culkin ate a pizza in 2013. Australian video artist Simon M. Benedict is known for his reenactments of popular Internet scenes and complements the series by eating chips.

Participatory art and culinary delights: Swedish artist Jonas Lund reflects on contemporarynetworked systems and technical innovations. He works with painting, sculpture, photography, websites and performances. Paint Your Pizza is a website where visitors can design their own individual pizza on the computer using MS graphics software and have it delivered directly to the exhibition space.

The American artist Cory Arcangel explores the relationship between technology and culture. He acquires content from the internet and pop culture, uses hacking and coding as artistic practice and creates games and software. Pizza Party is software that allows you to order pizza directly from the command line without a phone or the internet. The software was developed in collaboration with the hacker Michael Frumin. The exhibited Zine shows the source code of the Pizza Party software and footnots, texts, poems and pictures of the artist.

Operating in the liminal space between sculpture, installation, and writing, Darren Bader’s work questions – often ironically – notions of authorship in contemporary art. Recently Bader has written a number of humorous proposals for impossible artworks to happen around the world – examples of which have also included riding the equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius naked and installing a baby changing table under Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper.

In his work, Simon Dybbroe Møller subjectively revises the artistic avant-garde of the 20th century. The works are tongue-in-cheek reflections of the modern age that oscillate between constructed and authentic art history, original and reproduction, and transform the past avant-garde into a web of wondrous coincidences, hidden secrets and subjective commentaries. For his performance, a pizza is ordered from dozens of pizza suppliers, which is delivered at the time of opening and shared with all visitors.

A drawing by legendary comic artist R. Crumb, in which he imagines the crucial moment when Monica Lewinsky delivered pizza to the president.

Uffe Isolotto is interested in Internet memes and self-design in social media. His works have the character of self-portraits or photographic selfies.

Torben Ribe combines painting with ephemera from consumer culture and utilitarian objects or furniture – pizza menus, a radiator, a coffee pot, a ventilator, a wall socket – to produce idiosyncratic assemblages that evoke domestic spaces. His experimental video work Untitled (scrambled programme) will be shown in a local pizzeria.

Marco Bruzzone‘s multifaceted work is based on the development of concepts. His working method is comparable to that of an engineer: Bruzzone develops methods and applications that produce works of art. His somewhat scientific attitude, characterized by research and analysis, is modulated by his simultaneous interest in automated and industrial processes. At the NRW-Forum he presents pizza sculptures and wall works.

The French artist Claude Viallat is featured in the exhibition with abstract pizza paintings. He is one of the most important artists of the French Supports/Surfaces movement. Since the 1960s, he has not only examined themes and motifs in his work, but also the classical techniques and components of an image.

Sebastian Schmieg examines the ways networked technologies shape online and offline realities. In particular, his practice reflects on humans as software extensions, and on machine vision as a global infrastructure. His video I Will Say Whatever You Want In Front Of A Pizza addresses the potential societal influence of real people who operate under the guise of a supposedly computer generated bot in the virtual world.

The exhibition will also be accompanied by additional events with PIZZA ART WORLD CUP, PIZZA SYMPOSIUM and PIZZA SEMINARS. All dates at www.nrwforum.de/veranstaltunge...

Pizza is God was conceived by the artists Mikkel Carl and Paul Barsch, as well as the curators Marie Nipper and Konstanze Schütze. A reader with around 100 contributions by artists, curators, journalists and scientists on approx. 360 pages is published by the Kettler publishing house.

Ausstellungsansicht Pizza Is God © NRW-Forum Düsseldorf / Foto B. Babic

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