'SUPERMARKET': ART IN YOUR SHOPPING CART
The Star, Kansas City
By Robin Trafton
Challenging the way we think about art galleries and art a commodity, the Slop Art Shop presents "Supermarket," a creatively curated exhibition of conceptual artwork by 69 artists from Kansas City and around the nation. Mass produced works and unique art objects in a variety of mediums investigate the relationship between art and consumer culture.
The gallery space has the appearance of a super store, a type of art mini-mart. Shelves are stocked with assorted prepackaged art labeled with large price tags and ready for unbridled consumption.
Slop Art Shop store managers and curator Adriane Herman and Brian Reeves, in the role of the info-commercial spokespersons, interact with customers and enthusiastically share the amazing bargains available.
"Supermarket" is a humorous documentary on the pristine environment, hidden price lists and elitist attitudes often associated with commercial galleries.
Much of the conceptual art critiques the extremes of pop culture, jabs historical art movements and stretches restrictive definitions of "art." The theme of consumer consumption is brought down to a basic level, with free samples of artsy food stuffs.
Visitors are encouraged to touch, play and casually browse the art in a familiar shopping arena. Who would feel intimidated looking at two-dimensional works under a "Wal-Art" sign? Here one finds "Sandwich Stack" by Jennifer Dailey of Ohio. Priced at $29.99, this abstract work in oil and graphite on paper features alternating stripes of gray, blue and yellow. According to the price tag, it creates and "illusion of mass yet maintains its flatness," a minimalist meal "you can sink your eyes into."
For those customers put off by artwork needing framing, Herman recommends artist Jay S. Etkin's "Bag O'Conceptual Art," a 12 by 9 inch, individually wrapped image. The packaging reads: "Ready for hanging. Will not irritate eyes. Fun for all ages."
Some works, like "Space Bird," a small plastic Brancusi-esque fishing lure by Andrew Mowbray of Boston, is frighteningly close to a real museum shop's giftwares of Picasso mugs and Monet umbrellas.
"Supermarket's" catalog could easily be mistaken for a grocery-store flier. Its slick pages are packed with colorful merchandise, loud prices and clever coupons. Many works featured leave the serious artist sentiment behind as the fine art object is knocked from its pedestal and onto the sale rack.
Photographs of dirty plates, chocolate Jesus candy, minimalist snow globes, silly videos, plastic mini-mutants in cages - even art sold by the square inch - will keep the viewer guessing.
Although "Supermarket" claims a goal of helping people feel more comfortable buying art and "aims to facilitate the art collecting process," the exhibition is clearly designed for art visitors in the know.
Those without an understanding of art history or conceptual art may not find the idea-based work amusing. It is ironic that the show may fuel the skepticism of the part of the public who truly are hindered by conmmercial gallery airs.
Yet the exhibition's intent is not to educate but to spoof the culture for the art community. For those "Supermarket" visitors with an understanding of the art scene and a sense of humor, satisfaction is guaranteed.